Contributed by: Wesley Hull Thursday, November 25 2021 @ 07:14 pm ACDT
After two days of frenetic wheeling, dealing and clubs selecting for their futures, the 2021 AFL draft has seen the most significant selection of players to have strong African connections. In fact, when Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS) selected Leek Aliir with their pick 15, he became the third player of African origins within the first round of the draft.
The first player of the trio selected, Mac Andrew, was nabbed by the Gold Coast Suns with pick 5. He is the highest ever draft selection for a player with an African background. Andrew's parents are from South Sudan but Mac was born in Egypt.
According to Sarah Cumming at the ABC, Andrew's journey has already captivated young kids of similar backgrounds. Andrew told the ABC "I've already got messages from young Sudanese kids who are telling me that they're following my journey and looking up to me." Fremantle were quick to select local Subiaco player, Neil Erasmus, with their pick 10. Erasmus was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. selected as a key position defender, Erasmus likely has some of that South African family background lurking as he had to choose between a promising cricket career or the AFL. Fremantle won.
Keeping things tidy, pick 15 belonged to GWS and they pounced on Central Districts product, Leek Aliir. The talented South Australian is aware of the journey ahead, and behind, but in Sarah Cumming's article he stated "and understand that regardless of where you come from, your background, the setbacks that you may experience, you can continue to push, persevere and motivate yourself to get to the highest level possible."
Certainly, the era of young African athletes rising to the highest level of the AFL is growing. This historic draft has set records, but has also set the bar higher for other young players to follow the lead of Andrew, Erasmus and Aliir.