The curious case of Majak Daw

Majak Daw is one of the biggest enigmas in the Australian Football League. On one hand he is everything the North Melbourne Football Club want to be, on the other he is everything they are trying to avoid.

Daw is best known for being the first Sudanese player drafted by an AFL club. Throughout his career he has polarised not only North Melbourne fans, but fans of all clubs. The lingering question is where does Daw fit in the

Photo : AFL Media

Photo : AFL Media

scheme of what the Kangaroos are trying to achieve ? This also begs the question of what are the Kangaroos trying to achieve?

At first glance it looks simple. After a Preliminary Final in 2014, anything less in 2015 should be deemed a failure. Ask a North Melbourne fan and they’ll probably tell you it’s not remotely simple.

North are trying to become the club who set the example off the field. They run some fantastic cultural initiatives at Arden Street, and many other clubs should follow by example. It’s thanks to the likes of Daw that these opportunities have arisen.

They want NEED Majak to be a success at the elite level. It justifies drafting him, it solidifies their stance as the multicultural club of the AFL and it opens up a supporter base that no other club will see the likes of in the near future . On paper, it’s perfect. On-field it’s a jigsaw piece they’re jamming where it just doesn’t fit.

At Werribee he looks strong. He rucks well, kicks goals and doesn’t struggle mightily to pick the ball up off the turf. At North he lacks speed, gets the yips in front of goal and can’t play the ball off the ground, yet Brad Scott persists with his selection .

He has a role to play at North, but the problem is that the role he is best suited to hasn’t been found. The omission of Ben Brown to select Daw baffles even the strongest football mind, with Brown surely the best thing to happen to the club in the last decade?

North fans have referred to Daw as everything from Brad Scott’s pet project to the player who you’ll always wonder what might have been. At 24 years of age and with less than 20 games in three seasons it’s not an unfair assessment to use either of those two terms. Very few footballers get the opportunities that Daw has received, especially when you factor in that he hasn’t taken those opportunities. I’m not saying it’s all over for Daw, but he must have one eye on the calendar as 2015 winds down.

Sadly for the Kangaroos, the plight of Majak Daw reflects the current state of the football club.

A friend of mine who has been a North Melbourne member for five years took to Facebook on Saturday night after the defeat by the Gold Coast Suns to express their… well, I’ll let you decide the term for yourself.

“For Sale: North Melbourne Membership (2015). Partially used, severely underwhelming and generally disappointing. Will provide you joy once every few rounds before an embarrassing weekend where you hide any evidence of support. Bidding starts at $0.”

Every sports fan can relate to that at some point, because it’s just so true. For the Kangaroos, it’s a case of flashes of life leading to the belief that they’re going to show the football world incredible things. Winning a few finals in 2014 offered a great opportunity for a logical step forward, yet the thumping they copped from the Swans in the Preliminary Final showed that they had overshot the mark.

Much like Daw, the Kangaroos have an identity crisis. They want to be seen as a team with speed and who move the ball strongly along the floor but they play three tall forwards? They have finals aspirations but lose to a team that have won once all year? Brad Scott returns from injury and tells the media they’re going to be proven wrong (again) and that even though they sit at 6-7 anything is possible? If that was the case Scott would take the approach of “there’s work to be done” and get on with it, rather than grandstanding with the media.

If Scott has as much time left as he thinks he does (his contract runs until the end of 2016) then he needs to swallow his pride. No longer should his excuses and aggression be tolerated. He’s in the hottest seat in the league, yet he doesn’t seem to realise it. He is responsible for a fanbase 16 years removed from their last premiership who aren’t willing to accept the inconsistencies they have been served for the majority of the last decade. Much like his brother Chris, Brad came into coaching full of expectations and promises. Unlike his brother the delivery hasn’t occurred as fans expected.

For Majak and for the Kangaroos the answer is simple, back to basics. Majak (and Werribee) will be rewarded by him playing the remainder of the year in the VFL. His presence could be enough to lift the Tigers to their first flag in 22 years.

The Kangaroos need more aggression – harder tackles and stronger pressure when their opponents are clearing the ball from their own end. This will lead to turnovers. Turnovers up possessions. Possession is the name of the game for Brad Scott (the Kangaroos sit 12th averaging 357 possessions a game), and when the possession count is upped it is inevitable that scoreboard pressure will follow. North Melbourne’s average of 12.8 goals a game puts them seventh in the league on average goals scored. If they were just two goals a game better off they’d be sitting third, in a prime position to repeat their 2014 performance.

Whatever North Melbourne and Daw try next, it needs to be something new.

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