FINALLY, after three years of being the AFL's most discussed untried rookie, Majak Daw will play his first game in North Melbourne colours on Friday.
One year after he was banished by the club for his lapses in professionalism, Daw will line up against Melbourne and Richmond after winning his coaches and teammates over with his improved attention to detail this pre-season. Daw, 21, was elevated to the senior list at the end of last season, three years after he was drafted as a rookie with much-celebrated hopes of becoming the first Sudanese-born AFL player.
Daw said being sent away from the club and forced to experience ''the real world'' had made him appreciate how lucky he was to play professionally. He said he had lied to Brad Scott - telling the coach he had not gone out to a nightclub while recovering from a knee injury - because he had been scared.
''I lied because I was scared of getting in trouble. I knew I'd done the wrong thing and my first instinct was to protect myself and avoid trouble and lie to the coach about it,'' Daw told Fairfax Media. ''I was afraid of the consequences of what I'd done and I was thinking, 'What's going to happen to me?', but by lying I caused a much bigger problem than would have been there in the first place.
''At the time it was really hard. I was embarrassed and I was unhappy that my actions affected the people around me so much, but now that a year's gone by and I can look back on it, I think it was a huge turning point. It was only after it happened that I sat back and thought, that was a stupid mistake and people are going to form opinions about me based on something stupid that I've done. I could see how much trust I'd lost and that was a big realisation for me.''
Said Scott: ''I'm looking forward to seeing him play … He'll do things that make people sit up and watch, but he'll make a lot of mistakes as well.''