Collingwood players have been praised for their selfless actions moments before their massive qualifying final against Geelong, as they helped young fan Alieha run through the banner.
Captain Scott Pendlebury and teammate Steele Sidebottom ensured Magpies fan Alieha, who has cerebral palsy and walks with a frame, was able to make her way through the team huddle in heartwarming scenes.
Vision shared of Sidebottom’s assistance, in particular, has been widely applauded across social media on Monday.
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But the man himself was quick to deflect the praise given to him.
“Little Alieha, I’ve seen plenty of her over the last few years. She’s been at the club a few times before,” he said on SEN.
“It also makes me appreciate the position I’m in, and for us to be able to do that and, I haven’t spoken to her or her parents after the game, but there’s no doubt she loved what she did with us on Saturday night and even more so we loved having her run out with us.”
Alieha was assisted to the front of the group as many players including Jamie Elliott, Jack Ginnivan and Brayden Maynard, made their way to the little girl’s side to ensure she was OK.
Other players lifted the banned for Alieha to enter the field of play first as the 91,000-plus fans at the MCG cheered.
Alieha’s mum took to social media to thank all the players and the club for “giving my girl this opportunity”. She also personally thanked Sidebottom “for always looking out for her”.
Collingwood staff member Liz Dunne revealed little Alieha had “burst into tears” after the moment with the players, telling her mum they were “happy tears”.
“You sort of don’t appreciate those sort of things as much as you probably should,” Sidebottom said.
“For us to be able to touch someone’s life like that … it’s nice to be able to make a difference for someone who is perhaps going through a tough time.
“It’s amazing, you know, what sort of small gestures and whatever it might be can really brighten someone’s day up.
“We often talk about the community and the reach we can have as footballers.
“Clearly we want to be the best footballers we can, but the way we carry ourselves is important as well.
“I think, when people come into our environment as well, we want people saying: ‘How good were the Collingwood boys?’ We want people to come in and have a good experience and spread that message.”
Sidebottom said coach Craig McRae was a big believer in giving back off the field as well.
“Whenever we are on show, the way we carry ourselves on and off the field, we want people to be talking nice things. Since Fly’s (McRae) come on board, that’s been his message – we want to be good footballers and we want to be good people as well,” he said.
The appreciation for the Magpies players comes just hours after Taylor Adams put out his own plea to find the little girl who held his hand to cross the road after his season sadly ended with injury.
Adams tore his groin off the bone in shocking scenes, but said little Isabella’s moment brightened his day and he wanted to thank her and her father.