ALL-AUSTRALIAN defender Aliir Aliir is not so nervous this time while the Port Adelaide key back prepares to face his former Sydney team-mates for the second time.
But there is one former Sydney colleague coming to Adelaide Oval on Saturday that keeps all defenders - Aliir included - on their toes: Lance "Buddy" Franklin.
"We have done our homework - and I am ready for the big fellow," Aliir said at Port Adelaide's intercultural program presentation in the city on Friday. "I am excited to play against him.
" 'Buddy' is a terrific player. He is a Hall of Famer (in the making) with just some of the things he does. I have had the privilege of training with him, so on Saturday I will be ready to play on him. I will try to keep him goal-less ...
"There is no secret to playing against 'Buddy'. You do your homework. He is a great natural athlete and he is going to do some freaky stuff. But if I can minimise his impact I will be doing my job for the team."
Franklin kicked four goals in last year's Port Adelaide-Sydney encounter - won by Port Adelaide to extend the club's winning streak against Sydney to five - at Adelaide Oval when Aliir appeared for the first time against his former team-mates.
"It is a little strange, but not as strange as the first time," Aliir said. "First time, there are a lot of nerves. You don't know how the Sydney players are going to treat you. But second time you are relaxed.
"I am more excited than anything. I am not as nervous as I was last year."
Aliir, 27, had his own interrupted start to the season with ankle surgery required after the season-opener against Brisbane at the Gabba. Notable this season is Aliir playing deeper in defence after tormenting opposition teams at the top of the 50-metre arc last year with his intercept marking that earned All-Australian honours.
"I am playing everywhere," Aliir of his role in defence this season. "There are times when I am up high and times when I am deep, depending on the different opponents. The game is always changing. I have found myself high, I have found myself deep a few times.
"I do my job from wherever I am playing."
Aliir will have the ever-reliable Tom Clurey - another defender who had to overcome surgery (knee surgery) this season - as his support act in the Port Adelaide defence against Sydney ... and Franklin.
"Tom has been great," Aliir said. "He is the guy I usually work with because we are the majority of the time taking the key forwards. Just the way Tom has been able to defend has made him the rock; he has been solid there.
"We need him playing well if we are going to achieve something great to finish the year. He has been playing well, but we all could lift a bit more."
Port Adelaide is in a must-win game while sitting at 5-7 in 12th position with a three-win gap to the top eight where Sydney sits in seventh spot with an 8-4 win-loss record.
"But we are not looking any further than Saturday's game," Aliir said. "It has been disappointing (with the 0-5 start). We are proud of the way we have been able to come back from that shocking start. From here we have to ramp it up to get more wins on the board.
"It is a very important game for us.
"We have plenty of improvement in us. There are a few players who are doing well, but I am not playing that great - and there are a few other players who need to lift. If we can get ourselves playing to our best, everything else will take care of itself."
Port Adelaide challenged its 21-24-year-olds to step up in Season 2022 - a task that becomes paramount on Saturday when the line-up is deprived more than 900 games of AFL experience, in particular by the absence of former captain Travis Boak and gamebreaker Robbie Gray.
"(Senior coach) Ken Hinkley mentioned that to us (on Friday morning); we are losing some great players," Aliir said. "We are very excited with the young guys who are coming in. Mitch Georgiades played well at the weekend. (Ruckman) Brynn Teakle played well - and is getting his first game (after being drafted two weeks ago).
"Having young boys there brings energy. We feed off that. Those young guys will be keen to play well.
"Byrnn has fitted in well - 15 days ago he was at East Fremantle. Now he is making his AFL debut. It is a crazy story. I am excited and pumped for him. There will be nerves from playing your first AFL game. But we are going to try to make it easier for him. We are going to back him all the way through."
Aliir appeared for the second time as the major drawcard at the Port Adelaide "Power Intercultural Program Carnival" at Karen Rolton Oval in the city.
Striking a quick impression on Aliir was the greater turnout of boys and girls - from 13 schools around South Australia - to enjoy Australia's culturally strong game.
"Last year there were a few, but now there are more multi-cultural kids coming out here - it seems to grow every year," Aliir said. "And it is fun to watch them run around.
"And there is probably a future player who is better than Aliir Aliir out here," added the Kenyan-born South Sudanese Aliir who moved to Australia as an eight-year-old in 2002. "We will find out soon.
"I think my presence in the AFL is bringing more multi-cultural kids to the game. The more I can be here and interact with them, the more they will want to play football. So I will try to get here as much as I can to events like this. Just my presence here, to chat with them helps ... the majority want to play football now because they are seeing other Africans playing football.
"Having so many other (African immigrants) play now gives these kids someone to watch (and aspire to follow to the AFL). I remember when I first got drafted (in at No. 44 in 2013) we had Majak Daw at North Melbourne and every time he played, he gave me that little bit of hope that I could play football.
"Now we have seven-eight Africans who are playing AFL - that is great for the game. They are strongly built, they are very athletic. It is about giving them knowledge about the game."