Aliir alights at Port

Sometimes the question of role and opportunity can be cut and dry, but sometimes, it’s not a clear and easy one to answer. The doubt and question marks alone, though, can be enough to prompt a club to undervalue a player, and that player to seek a bit more clarity and value elsewhere.

Sydney struggled to find a role for Aliir Aliir as the 2020 rolled on, partly due to needing him to cover a seemingly endless injury crisis among their talls.

After being the leading interceptor at the club in 2018, Aliir fell out of the intercepting defender picture in 2020 out of necessity. This move saw the emergence or re-emergence of other players in what still remained a pretty reliable defensive mix, with one of the lowest points conceded per entry in the league.

The young Tom McCartin’s switch to the backline looms large in this picture, but other factors devaluing Aliir include the surprising form of mature recruit Robbie Fox, the seemingly permanent placement of Callum Mills in defence, the development of Jordan Dawson, and the return to regular senior gametime of Lewis Melican.

With Dane Rampe returning from injury next season, there’s a lot of questions about what mix of mid-sized to bigger defensive options Sydney want to field.

The dilemma regarding Aliir, recontracted at the height of his output, therefore becomes one of cap investment vs those other options. How much value over the next best options did Aliir provide, and at what price could he be kept?

And the question for Aliir was of course one of role certainty and the type of contract (allegedly four years at Port Adelaide) on offer.

For Port Adelaide, Aliir probably won’t need to ruck and can be thrown around the ground in different roles. Although he has 3cm and 10 kg on Tom Clurey, he’s not a noted 1v1 defender, with Clurey’s 19% contested defensive 1v1 loss rate in the last two years much better than Aliir’s 31%.

Aliir is therefore probably not the full answer to Port’s undersized defence and certainly not their vulnerability to hulking monsters like Tom Hawkins. Instead, he answers a different kind of question with his Westhoff-shaped big man flexibility. He can potentially take some time off Georgiades or Marshall at one end, or McKenzie at the other, without pushing out any of the key position mainstays.

Despite the unknown value of future picks, the trade is fairly balanced.

Aliir, 27 next year, has years of decent output left and PAPLEY assumes he’ll have a better run than he did this year. However, second round picks all have value and are useful. The future pick can’t slip much beyond 36, while pick 27 (which goes to 9th place) would be rated as exactly even value.

Verdict: Fair trade, particularly if Port slide a bit

Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Readers can explore these values with tools such as 5-year player value projection charts and a Salary Prediction tool as well as the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.

Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAVExpressing the value of players and picks in terms of expected future PAV provides a common currency for comparing them in trades and other movements. Players are projected using PAPLEY, a method to derive expected future PAVs.

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