Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Lost in the shuffle of Majak Daw’s recent injuries when falling from Melbourne’s Bolte Bridge is his impact on the game of Australian Rules football. Whilst there is some polarisation of people’s reaction to Daw’s latest misfortune – from sympathy to, sadly, discriminatory – Daw’s contribution to opportunity for young immigrants is profound.
Rohan Smith’s article at www.news.com.au sheds great light on his journey and achievements within the context of how hard daw has had to work through his life to achieve at all.
Majak Daw has survived it all, and continues to hang tough. It’s not just a tribute to his strength — it’s a result of where he’s come from.
When Majak Daw speaks, you’d never know English is his second language. He’s got the Australian twang.
When he kicks a footy, you’d never know he grew up a world away where the luxury of recreational sport isn’t afforded to kids like it is here.
When he laughs, you’d never know he’s struggling.
The Aussie Rules trailblazer is an incredibly impressive young man who appears to take life in his stride given all that he’s been through — surviving a civil war, being an outcast in Egypt, a high-profile court case. Despite it all he’s hanging tough.
In a 2017 interview, Daw laughed and joked about being a “laughing stock” when he first picked up a footy across the road from his parents’ Werribee home, in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
He spoke warmly and positively about his role as a poster boy for Sudanese children who have a hard time settling in Australia.
It’s why the news on Tuesday morning that Daw was found badly injured beneath the Bolte Bridge rocked the Australian football community.
The 27-year-old reportedly fell from the 25m bridge — one of Melbourne’s tallest — and broke his hip when he hit the water.
It’s a fall that others have not survived but Daw is in a stable condition in hospital.
Police were called to Lorimer St at the Docklands about 11pm on Monday after reports that a man had been discovered “at the edge of the water” on the banks of the Yarra River.
The area where Daw fell is more than 1.5km from the bridge’s southern entrance and is protected by a three-metre-tall chain link fence. There is no pedestrian access along the bridge.
The North Melbourne Football Club released a short statement this morning.
“The North Melbourne Football Club can confirm Majak Daw is recovering in hospital after an incident last night,” the statement read.
“At this stage the full extent of his injuries are unknown, however he is in a stable condition.
“The club is providing full support to Majak and his family and will give a further update when it is in a position to do so.
“We understand the level of interest but ask the privacy of the player, his family, teammates and staff at the club be respected at this sensitive time.”
Former Kangaroo great and mental health advocate Wayne Schwass was among those offering their support online.
“Sending you unconditional support, love and respect during this difficult time brother,” Schwass wrote on social media.
As news spread around the football community, the focus shifted to Daw’s life outside footy.
The third eldest of nine children, Daw moved around a lot growing up. His family fled South Sudan in 2000 for a better life when he was nine years old.
For three years he struggled to fit in as a new arrival in Egypt before arriving in Australia on January 26, 2003, of all days.
“I didn’t know a word of English,” Daw told Beat Magazine last year. “It was pretty challenging. We were the first sort of migrants in my area.”
The family home was opposite an oval where locals kicked around a strange shaped ball. Some gentle encouragement from his parents was all it took. Daw picked up a footy and never looked back.
He recalled fondly the moment his name was read out on draft day.
“My family was around and everyone was there,” he told the Herald Sun. “I was just screaming, I was just so happy to be at North Melbourne and be the first Sudanese to achieve this. It was a big achievement.”
The 194cm Kangaroos defender has been followed by other Sudanese players including Sydney’s Aliir Aliir and is regarded as one of the elite intercept marks in the game today.
But footy is only half his story. When he’s not training at Arden St, he’s fulfilling his role as one of the AFL’s multicultural ambassadors — a role he takes pride in.
Or talking to the Sudanese community in Melbourne through social media. In 2016 Daw used Facebook to call for calm as tensions rose following a riot at the Moomba Festival.
“You all have to understand criminal and violent behaviour will not be tolerated at all,” he wrote.
“It’s time for us to act on the reasons our parents brought (us) to Australia.”
He told Beat that the difficulties he experienced growing up helped shape him.
“Through adversity and growing with limited opportunities, I have learnt to appreciate what I have today.
And he doesn’t take that for granted.
“(AFL) has given me the opportunity to live out every kid’s dream. To do what I love as a job, but (it’s) also given me a voice to influence people in a positive way.”
This year was supposed to be a coming-out party of sorts for Daw following ankle surgery in September. He’s not been training with the club but was expected to be at full health in January.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency, call triple-0
Rohan Smith’s original story can be viewed at: https://www.news.com.au/sport/afl/majak-daw-recovering-in-hospital-after-fall-from-melbournes-bolte-bridge/news-story/380eec69c48fd5f533d09b9d4da0ff3f
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