Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh has heaped high praise on Aliir Aliir as the veteran defender eyes an extra special AFL flag with the Swans’ exciting young brigade.
McVeigh can’t recall the last time Sydney blooded seven newcomers in a single season, but says he’s not surprised by the impact of Aliir, Rising Star nominees Callum Mills and Tom Papley and company have had at the Swans in 2016.
“The way they’ve trained since the pre-season, how they’ve really wanted to stamp themselves on the competition and our team this year, has been fantastic,” McVeigh said ahead of Sydney’s hosting of Port Adelaide on Saturday.
“The way that they’re playing at the moment has been great. For the older players who have that experience to have that youth come into the team, it gives you a sense of pride and you want to achieve something with these young kids as well.”
Aliir, the 21-year-old Kenyan-born Sudanese refugee, has only played six senior games in the AFL.
Yet the impressive manner in which he’s occupied a key defensive post and kept out 2012 premiership player Ted Richards, the oldest player at the club, has McVeigh tipping a decade-long career at the Swans.
Aliir has grown in confidence since making his debut in round six against Brisbane.
“His first couple of games he was in and out so he didn’t really get that chance to show his wares,” McVeigh said.
“It was a bit wet in those games as well so he wasn’t able to show his mark and his ability. But on the weekend (against Fremantle) he was fantastic.
“His composure on the ball as well is something that we’ve seen him grow over the last few weeks. He’s going to be a strong 10-year player for us and it’s fantastic out there seeing him play well.”
Sydney’s 2012 premiership captain is also tipping a big future for Isaac Heeney after the 20-year-old’s return to form following a couple of weeks out of the senior side.
In his second game back last weekend, he starred with four goals and 22 touches in the 90-point thrashing of the Dockers.
“That break’s done him wonders,” McVeigh said.
While coach John Longmire has primarily used impressive second-year player Heeney as a key forward alongside Lance Franklin, McVeigh thinks the youngster will end up back in the midfield where he played most of his junior footy.
“The partnership up there with ‘Bud’ (Franklin) with him, he provides that x-factor a little bit,” McVeigh said.
“He’s good overhead for his size and to kick four on the weekend is really good for his confidence.”