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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Four points – Essendon Bombers

The Williamstown Seagulls got their first television appearance of the season on Saturday afternoon and didn’t disappoint with a 44-point statement victory over the Essendon Bombers at Burbank Oval.

1. Collins half-time spray – I’d love to know what Andy said to the side at half time. There appeared no way back at half time with the side lacking confidence going forward, confidence that had been a trademark of their IMG_1688performances all year. The third quarter was a quarter for the ages. It not only showed why every other team in the league should be scared of what the Seagulls can do, but it demonstrated the philosophy that Collins is working towards.

2. Wet weather footy – With Burbank heavy underfoot, possessions were more vital than ever on Saturday. For Andy Collins the message at the first break was to handball rather than use the short kick. The Seagulls had 85 more disposals on Saturday, out-handballing the Bombers 149-78.  Moving the ball by hand caught the Bombers off guard and allowed the home side to stretch their dominance.

3. Accuracy in front of goal – 28 scoring shots for the Seagulls has been fairly standard this year (The only times they’ve had less were the Northern Blues in round one (25) Werribee in round five (24) and Box Hill in round ten (20)), but what they did with the scoring shots was vital. 20 goals and eight behinds is enough to ensure you’re going to pick up the points every week. With a potential percentage booster looming against the winless Frankston this Saturday, the Seagulls will be hoping for a repeat performance to climb back to the top of the ladder.

4. Family fun – I’m not talking the family fun activities that are on for the kids every week. With school holidays being on my parents were down for a visit and it was great to take my dad to his first Williamstown game after sharing many a spirited discussion about the club on the phone since I started attending games. The result helped but he came away from the day impressed with how everything unfolded. I’d say that’s a big win.

I DEMAND EQUALITY

The Women’s World Cup Final was both an entertaining game and a bust. The Women’s World Cup as a whole shows the great leaps being made by women’s sport both in Australia and abroad. Fans are demanding equality…. Where it suits them.

IMG_1686

The Pararoos in action and the recent Cerebral Palsy World Championships.

The Matildas had a wonderful campaign in Canada. They progressed further than any Australian team has at a World Cup and gave a new generation of heroes to young football fans across Australia, and more importantly gave female footballers a look at what they can achieve.

After the final yesterday Social Media became flooded with posts talking about the need for more women’s sport on television and I couldn’t agree more. What I don’t agree with is the push for equality when the equality is convenient for you. If you want equality you want it across the board or you don’t want it at all.

MEN’S AND WOMEN’S SPORT MUST HAVE EQUAL TELEVISION RIGHTS AND VIEWERSHIP. That’s nice, even though it isn’t true. The demand isn’t the same, so the money won’t be the same and the exposure won’t be the same. Which brings me to my main point.

You love equality? How much of the Cerebral Palsy World Championships did you watch from England? They were on at the same time. After all you want all sport to be recognised, yes?

The last twelve months have seen some fantastic coverage for the Pararoos, however it was for all the wrong reasons after funding was cut. At times it looked like there would be no more Paralympic Football in Australia, a huge loss not only for those who aspire to be Pararoos but for those who use football as a form of physical therapy (yes, that’s a real thing).

The Pararoos headed to England with their sights set on qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympics, which would have been their first games since Sydney 200o should they have qualified. They returned home the eleventh best team in the world, unfortunately missing on on Paralympic qualification in the process.

On numbers alone from their last World Cup performance the Pararoos finished slightly lower than the Matildas and well above the Socceroos, yet most people wouldn’t be able to name one player in the team.

Eleventh for a team who a year ago had their funding cut. I’m not asking for FTA coverage as I know it’s unrealistic. You could watch every game of the CP World Championships live on YouTube. Why weren’t the FFA promoting the life out of this? I’ll never know. Across the board Women’s sport gets centre stage 1-2 twice a year. Do I think that enough? Of course it isn’t. Paralympians get once every four years, and the winter athletes get treated like more of a novelty than the summer athletes. Tell me again how female athletes are the most marginalised in this country?

Sadly there is only so much space in the media (although the space is expanding). That space goes to the sports and athletes that are going to generate the most revenue and interest (in that order). Women’s and Disability sport will do neither of those things as well as Men’s sport will. The solution? Make noise. Go to games, get on Social Media, annoy all of your friends to watch, write about what you’re seeing. If there isn’t a market and you think it exists, make it happen. Just don’t talk about equality for what suits you. Make it happen for everyone.

There isn’t an athlete at any level who doesn’t deserve to have the spotlight of the world shining on them. The fact of the matter remains that the world isn’t big enough yet, so the light can’t be as bright as we’d all like.

 

 

 

#StandByHerd

Essendon fans who continue to support James Hird (seen on Social Media through the #StandbyHird) are doing their club a disservice. Worse than that they’re so far in that they can’t get out.

We know Essendon have done some immoral things. We’re fairly sure they’ve done some illegal things. Once WADA have finished with them the club will be a shadow of the powerhouse it was at the start of the last decade.JamesHird

So why do fans continue to #StandbyHird ? I don’t know. I don’t know an Essendon fan who still wants him involved with the club. I don’t know why the board think he is the right man for the job and most importantly I don’t know why it’s so obvious that he is not a talented coach.

Hird was a wonderful player and that is probably why he still has a job . As far as the eye can see it appears to be the reason he has the support of a select group of Essendon fans. He was god on the field, he’s god off it (apparently) and they’re following him like sheep – killing their club in the process.

The refusal of fans to move on from the Hird era gives the club validation over the way the treat him. When fans tell clubs they are doing something right there is no reason for them to change. An executive at a big four franchise recently told me “if four out of five people like something, it stays”. The odds of four out of five fans wanting Hird in a job are astronomically low, but those with the weirdest thoughts often make the loudest noise.

Brisbane fans got sick of Michael Voss (a man who without argument had as big an impact at his club as Hird did at Essendon), so why are some fans clinging to Hird like he is the last sign of life on a deserted island? They want to be proven right.

The opportunity to stand up when this ends and say “I never lost faith in James, he’s guided us through the storm and everything is perfect” is too good to pass up. Newsflash – Even if he does survive to the end of the tunnel Essendon are not okay. They’re not going to be okay for a long time. Why support someone who decided long ago that his personal interests were more important than the history of a once proud club? Are those fans scared they’re going to be judged for changing their tune at a time when their club needs them more than ever? The longer you #StandbyHird , the worse you are making things for the club. You can’t move forward when you’re stuck in the past.

Still not convinced? Hird said the players stopped playing against St. Kilda (something which was obvious to everyone), on a day when they should have been celebrating a milestone achievement for a bloke who has put up with more than his share of rubbish this decade. If the players aren’t playing for him then what are you telling yourself as you go to sleep at night that makes you think he’s still the messiah?