African dreams of AFL glory

Tom hurls his considerable frame into a contest and comes out with the ball. From 30 metres out, he goals: a celebrated first kick, first goal situation. Seconds earlier, Garang had thrown himself fearlessly into a pack. He didn’t get the ball, but his effort caused a spillage and the ball eventually floated forward to Tom. Running frantically to stop all of this was Modasir from the other team.

This passage could have described almost any game, anywhere. It could also have described any three junior players in any game across the nation. But there was a difference.

Tom Daniel’s family is from Uganda and Garang Asheen’s and Modasir Bahar’s are from Sudan. And the setting was under the Friday night lights at Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns.

Majak Daw, the North Melbourne sensation whose opening 18 minutes of senior AFL footy earlier in 2013 captured the imagination of the footy public across the nation, has triggered interest in Australian Rules football nationally. Cairns, in North Queensland, has not been immune. Already there is evidence in the local competition that kids with African heritage are taking to the game.

It is fascinating to think that this scenario is being played out in Cairns. It is almost to be expected that the national AFL would have targeted African markets in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and possibly the other cities boasting large African populations. There are clubs who already boast bigger numbers of African kids on their lists. But to see this play out on the fields of Cairns is something else. Why?

Local clubs have become aware of the potential playing markets offered by a stream of talented and athletic kids wanting to give the game a go. At the same time, Majak Daw has become an inspiration to African kids. If he can go all the way, maybe they can.

Young Modasir believes this. “Yeah, I know Majak Daw. He is my inspiration as the first Sudanese AFL star.” Modasir and his family arrived in Cairns 8 years ago after leaving their home village of Capcapbia in northern Sudan. His love of the game grew from playing in Auskick programs at school and now he is playing club football for the Cairns Hawks.

Garang has a similar story. His family arrived in 2005 from Khartoum in central Sudan. This is his first year playing for an AFL club, joining Pyramid Power a few weeks ago after being introduced to the game through school programs. The other common denominator is Majak. Garang stated “Yeah, he is my hero and role model. I want to be like him and make my country proud.” He is certainly on that path as he improves week by week.

Tom’s mother is from Uganda, to the south of Sudan, whilst his father is Sudanese. The family journey has been similar to that of Garang and Modasir. Exposure through school is a common theme, which speaks volumes for the junior Auskick programs and school programs and their success. Tom is also now a part of the Pyramid Power club and on early indications has a big future in the game.

But the interesting idea here is that three boys of African descent have arrived at the same code at around the same time and are already adapting so well to the game. In years to come it is not difficult to see this number increasing as more families are exposed to the game. The trend is set to appear all over the country: further increases in multicultural participation.

But certainly, it is refreshing to see that the risk that North Melbourne took in rookie-listing Majak Daw a few years back is paying off, not only at their club, but across the nation.

And, remarkably, this is evidenced by Garang, Tom and Modasir, up north in Cairns.

Round 15 was the next time the three were likely to be on the same field again. We could wait to see that ‘Majak” happening all over again.


Adapted from original story published by

About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.

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