This week the AFL released its 2018 campaign, Don’t Believe in Never, showcasing three remarkable stories centring on passion, dedication, overcoming adversity and ultimately triumph within the game. Two of the stories are of Sydney players from Multicultural backgrounds with big dreams.
AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan said the campaign was inspirational for all levels of Australian Football, from the grassroots through to both the elite men’s and women’s competitions. “The common thread of these three stories is that at one point in their lives the subjects made a conscious decision that never was not an option and Australian Football has provided a vehicle for their personal successes,” Mr McLachlan said.
“Whether it’s on a Saturday at a suburban footy ground, or at the MCG on Grand Final Day, these films show that this game can win over every heart and create opportunities no matter the level of play. “As we embark on the final rounds of the second NAB AFL Women’s season, Dema’s story is a reminder to all of us – players, coaches, administrators and fans – that together we’re inspiring the next generation,” he said.
Please see below for the synopsis of the two players from Sydney, one playing elite AFL and the other Community Football.
Dema and The Bankstown Bull Sharks
Dema is a young girl of Muslim background from Bankstown, New South Wales who had no interest in AFL. That all changed when a teacher from her school introduced AFL to their PE classes and her love of the game began to grow. Needing to convince her conservative parents – who originally said never – to play AFL, she eventually joined the Bankstown Bull Sharks in the heart of Western Sydney. Initially hesitant, Dema’s father Stephen is now the team’s number one supporter, encouraging her along the way and ultimately to participate in the 2017 Female National Diversity Championships.
Aliir Aliir and the Swans superstars
One of the most inspiring stories in the AFL is the journey of Aliir Aliir. Born to Sudanese parents in a Kenyan refugee camp, before immigrating to Brisbane before Perth, Aliir has taken one of the most unusual paths to the AFL’s elite game. Having initially been overlooked by recruiters and believing he would never make it into the AFL, Aliir is now part of the Sydney Swans. Regularly training on Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin and being guided by some of the team’s best in Josh Kennedy and Dan Hannebery. Aliir is fulfilling his dream, and the dream of so many kids, in being a leading AFL footballer.