Aliir is only 195cm tall, while Reid is 196cm. Clarke, the only fit ruckman on Essendon’s list who was recalled after Tom Bellchambers injured his calf last week, will tower over them both at 203cm.
But what Aliir lacks in height and wrestling ability, he more than makes up with his vertical leap and mobility at ground level, as he showed at times against Gold Coast’s Jarrod Witts last weekend.
“I feel like I’ll be able to take advantage there because most ruckmen these days, their job is to tap it down and go down the line,” Aliir said. “But I’m not the usual ruckman so I’ll be moving around and trying to get the ball in my hands, providing defensive stuff but also pushing up forward and trying to hurt them the other way.”
Aliir has been working closely with Swans assistant Dean Cox to refine his positioning for centre bounces, ball-ups and throw-ins. “He keeps it simple too, he’s not trying to make me a ruckman,” Aliir said.
“My strength is jumping, not necessarily wrestling. This week we did a bit of stuff on the (tackle) bags, him throwing up the ball and just trying to time my jump, because if I can get that perfect I know I can get on top of whoever’s in there.”
Reid has been named to start in the ruck but how much time he spends there depends on how Sydney look up forward without him, or down back without Aliir. “We’re looking at it with an open mind,” said Swans forwards coach Steve Johnson.
“To take (Reid) out of the forward line is not ideal but they’re the cards we’ve been dealt. We do have a really inexperienced forward line apart from Sam Reid.
“But those guys love playing together, there’s a real buzz amongst that group. It’s a little less predictable with Bud not there … those guys have been filling the void and we’ve been able to kick a winning score in the last few weeks.”
Sydney coach John Longmire opted against deploying his only other alternative, mid-season draftee and former basketballer Michael Knoll, for fear he wasn’t yet ready to play AFL. Aliir suspects he may get his opportunity at some stage this year, especially if Sinclair is sent for shoulder surgery.
“He’s going pretty well but as Horse said earlier in the week, it’d be a big job for him,” Aliir said. “He only got here mid-year so he’s still learning the gameplan but in saying that, he hasn’t really done too much wrong.”