AFL Round 4 – North Melbourne v Brisbane Lions: Majak’s brief candle

North Melbourne versus Brisbane Lions

4:40pm, Sunday, 21 April

Etihad Stadium

Josh Barnstable

If ever a player could garner the attention of all followers of football without having played a senior game, Majak Daw could do it in spades. The Sudanese recruit, who made history in being the first player of his kind to be drafted onto an AFL list, wowed the sporting public with his athletic prowess, his outstanding leap, and his freakish ability. Playing in the VFL for his first three seasons, Daw polarised North Melbourne supporters, fans who wanted to see him in proper action, but also fans who didn’t want him rushed in too early. Finally, after four years with the Kangaroos, it was Majak time.

With the freedom that comes from a probationary driver’s licence, I umm’d and err’d about making the trip down to Melbourne to see North take on the Brisbane Lions. With the announcement during the week that Daw would make his long-awaited debut, it sealed the decision. My girlfriend Liz decided to come along. Arriving in the city on the train from Seymour, we ventured to the gates, where I walked past American recruit Eric Wallace doing a football clinic for small children. Or maybe it was the kids doing the clinic for Wallace? Either way, I pondered that in a few years’ time, I could be in the same position to see yet another historic North Melbourne debut. Sitting up in the third level at half forward, my spine tingled as the side ran out, desperately needing a win to atone for a 0-3 start to the year. Majak went to full forward, and I waited in anticipation.

Even after four seasons on the list, the decision to select Daw in such a crunch game was a gutsy one by Brad Scott. After 30 seconds, it was perhaps the best decision he has ever made. Daw leapt over the top of a pack in North’s first foray forward to claim a sensational mark to the rapturous applause of the blue and white faithful. Even better, he went back and slotted the first goal of the game, and he was mauled in celebration by every single Kangaroo player on the field. Minutes later, with Daniel Merrett as his new opponent, Daw wrestled with the Lions’ star, holding him off with one hand and hauling in the mark with the other, again to a cheer resembling a crowd of above 50,000. Unfortunately, Daw missed the set-shot. And even worse, it would be the last thing he would do, and probably the last thing he’d remember from his historic debut. It was like a giant vacuum had opened up the roof and sucked the energy and excitement out of the stadium when the ground announcer made it official that Majak had been subbed off due to a nasty concussion. I couldn’t tell if I was more disappointed in that, or that Liam Anthony was now into the game. Either way, the North Melbourne players were considerably flat after this, and struggled to find a direct avenue to goal. Up the other end, Brisbane were really struggling. They had to rely on Irish defender Niall McKeever to bang through their first goal from 50m, that’s how bad things were.

The Lions broke even with North in the second quarter, who were wasting opportunities at goal and should’ve been over 10 goals in front. Andrew Swallow made perhaps the worst decision in his AFL career when he ran back into the flight of Rohan Bewick’s marking attempt, which resulted in a Sherrin to the back of the head, a knee in the stomach, and a free kick to the Lions in front of goal. ‘Get up Swallow, you’re my SuperCoach captain!’ I heard from somewhere behind me. I nodded in agreement.

So far in 2013, North have lost all three third quarters they have played by considerable margins, including last week’s 11 goal embarrassment to the Sydney Swans. In the first few minutes, it was clearly playing on North’s mind. Liz noted that the team had obviously not been given a big enough rocket at half time by Scott. Five goals in a row soon followed, and we both assumed that the fuse had been ignited, it was just slightly delayed. Leading by 62 points, I safely conceded that we would finally win our first game of the season.

We relocated into the forward pocket for the start of the last quarter, and it proved a good decision early on, as we had front row seats to the best goal of the evening. Receiving a handball at half-back, Aaron Mullett blistered forward with unbelievable speed, taking four bounces before calmly slotting the goal. ‘Fishy’ has become one of my favourite players and his development so far this season has been the biggest positive. Paparone continued to work hard, and kicked two late goals to give hope to Brisbane supporters that they have a serious talent to work with in the future. Replacing Jonathon Brown is the biggest worry for the Lions. Scott Thompson didn’t just take Brown to the cleaners, he took him to the circus, didn’t let him go on any rides, and knocked the ice cream from his hands to the ground.

The final siren signalled a 63 point win for the Kangaroos, and it cast serious question marks over Michael Voss’s ability as a coach. You can’t just pluck bit-players from other clubs and hope it works like it has for Sydney and Hawthorn. Walking out of the stadium into the fresh air of the night, many North supporters were buoyed by the sheer excitement that Majak Daw delivered in 10 minutes of football, and as a result bounded to Southern Cross and into next week with a bounce in their steps.

North Melbourne 5.10 8.13 15.16 18.17 (125)

Brisbane Lions 1.2 4.5 6.5 9.8 (62)

GOALS

North Melbourne: Thomas, Petrie 4, Macmillan, Mullett, Daw, Hansen, Thompson, Gibson, Ziebell, Wells, Adams, Wright

Brisbane Lions: Paparone 3, Bewick 2, Green, Zorko, McKeever, Rockliff

BEST

North Melbourne: Thompson, Ziebell, Mullett, Goldstein, Hine, Macmillan, Petrie, Thomas, Gibson, Wells

Brisbane Lions: Rockliff, Paparone, Adcock, Docherty, Redden

Umpires: Burgess, Schmitt, Pannell

Official crowd: 22,776

Our Votes: 3 Thompson (NM) 2 Ziebell (NM) 1 Mullett (NM)

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.

Comments

  1. Andrew Starkie says:

    Josh,

    great metaphor/analogy whatever about Thommo and Browny. Most underrated player in the league, THommo. Should be AA. Any win’s a gppd win but gee Bris were bad.

  2. Josh / Andrew
    I am not getting too carried away about beating the Lions. Brisbane are bottom-four material, and as Josh hints at, Voss will come under scrutiny at some stage this year.
    I continue to be concerned at North’s inability to beat the really good teams.
    Golden opportunities against Coll & Geelong were squandered…and the effort in Hobart was appalling.
    If we cannot beat Hawthorn this week, what does the win count for. We will be 1-4 and at long odds to play finals.

  3. Andrew Starkie says:

    yep, smokie. yep. need big scalps.

  4. Lord Bogan says:

    Great stuff Barney.

    I hope Majak has a long and successful career. The last thing I want to remember him for is his novelty value.

Leave a Comment

*