Is There Any Majak Left?

FIRSTLY I apologise to the readers for the terrible pun in the title, I couldn’t resist. Majak Daw created history back in ’09 when he became the first Sudanese born AFL player drafted when North Melbourne selected him in the Rookie Draft. It took Daw a few years to make his debut (Round 4, 2013), but he has provided plenty of highlights since then. Unfortunately for Roos fans, those highlights have been pretty few and far between over his 30 career games so far. With his career at the crossroads, this could mean 2017 is not only the last year Majak Daw is in Kangaroos colours but the last year he is in the AFL altogether.

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THE motivation behind this article came after North Melbourne legend Nick Dal Santo, a former teammate of Daw’s, made comments last week stating that Daw was stuck in ‘no man’s land’. The North Melbourne ruckman/forward was fresh off a four disposal, one mark game against Freo and has struggled to have an impact all year. With five games to his name, Daw averages 6.0 touches, 2.2 marks, 12.2 hit-outs and has kicked four goals and three behinds in the 2017 season, far from eye popping numbers. In his eighth season, Daw still finds himself lost when playing as a forward and struggles to impact the competition.

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BOUNCING between the 1’s and 2’s can’t be good for a players confidence and, in fairness, injuries have plagued each of Daw’s pro seasons so far. Persistent knee issues haven’t allowed him to string a healthy season together whether it be in an AFL or VFL side. Another issue has been the fact that North Melbourne has an established top ruckman in Todd Goldstein. Goldy may be having a down year, yet he has been one of the best, mobile ruckmen in the entire competition over the past half a decade claiming the Roos B&F award last year and named in the All-Australian team.

PART of the reason that Majak Daw hasn’t been able to reach great heights is that he is being played out of position. He is a ruckman first, forward second and the Kangaroos have established players in each of those spots. Proven forwards  Jarrad Waite and Ben Brown pose as the tall timber inside 50, making it tough for Daw to find room to operate and become a legitimate threat, even with Waite’s recent move further up the ground in an effort to space the field more.

DAW’S talent is undeniable and I still believe that at just 26 (if healthy) he can be an impactful player in the AFL. However, as stated above his only role can be as a teams sole ruckman. Sure there are teams that are opting to take two ruckmen into certain clashes, but with the 3rd man up rule eliminated there is only so much impact both can have on the game if one can’t contribute as a forward. A team like the Bulldogs or the Swans could use him as a primary ruck, with most other clubs having an established tap specialist already. That doesn’t exactly leave a lot of room for Daw to land and it doesn’t help he is contracted to the Kangaroos until the end of 2019 as well. A spot may open up elsewhere for Daw orchestrated via trade (GWS?) or an injury may strike allowing him to claim the No.1 ruck mantle, but it’s a long shot. North Melbourne coach Brad Scott addressed the comments made by Dal Santo saying that continuity would be the key for Daw, in the hope that stringing some games together leads to a spike in his output and form.

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HEADING into the 18th round of the AFL season North are languishing at 17th on the ladder with a dismal 4-12 record, currently riding a five game losing streak. With the team struggling for players performing at a decent level, Scott swung the axe heading into their matchup with the Bombers dropping Todd Goldstein and Lindsay Thomas. Daw has been named as the starting ruckman on Saturday and he has a real chance to end the season on a high with five games left to show why he deserves to be their ruckman moving forward. If things don’t go according to plan he could very well find himself without a place on the Roos roster next year, with Todd Goldstein and 22-year-old Braydon Preuss knocking on the door for opportunities too. I think it’s too early to give up all hope on Daw contributing to an AFL team before his time in the league is done, but he is one injury or string of bad games away from potentially moving teams or facing the prospect that his AFL dream is over. There’s no doubt there is Majak left, will we see it is the real question.

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