North Melbourne star Majak Daw has given football fans one of the sporting moments of 2020, scoring an unforgettable goal during his long-awaited return to the AFL.
The Sudan-born ruckman has not played an AFL match since August 2018, battling injury and struggling with mental health since.
Daw was hospitalised in December 2018 after he fell from the Bolte Bridge in Melbourne — he broke his hips and pelvis during the incident.
On Wednesday, Daw was named in North Melbourne’s side for the round nine clash against the Adelaide Crows, marking his highly-anticipated return after a tumultuous 18 months.
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North Melbourne raced to an early lead on the Gold Coast, eager to attain their first win in six weeks.
In the fourth quarter, Kangaroos midfielder Shaun Atley was given some space near the centre square, and he quickly booted the Sherrin inside 50 towards Daw, who claimed a classy mark above his head.
The crowd inevitably went wild when the footy sailed between the centre posts, and Daw was promptly swamped by his ecstatic teammates.
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The 29-year-old celebrated with a jubilant leap in the air, accompanied by a fist pump and a wide smile.
“It’s a fantastic story. It’s a human triumph story is what it is, and the emotion says more than any words could say,” Fox Footy commentator Dwayne Russell said.
“That is beautiful.”
AAP journalist Ed Jackson tweeted: “Sometimes being a sports reporter gives you access to some pretty special moments. Being at Metricon today to cover Majak Daw’s return to the AFL is one of those moments.
“Nothing else but inspirational. Welcome back Majak!”
Sports reporter Jack Hudson posted: “The absolute joy on his face, the smile. What a comeback. Absolutely warms your heart. Well done Majak and North Melbourne.”
Geelong Advertiser chief cricket writer Alex Oates tweeted: “Seeing Majak Daw kick that goal and his teammates embrace him … spine-tingling stuff.”
Former Adelaide Crows forward Josh Jenkins simply tweeted: “Well done big fella.”
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Daw mustered eight disposals and four marks during North Melbourne’s 19.5 (119) to 7.8 (50) victory. He lead the side off Metricon Stadium after the final siren, his intoxicating smiling never fading as they entered the change rooms.
Three-time premiership player Cameron Mooney praised Daw for his stellar comeback performance.
“You could see the confidence growing and growing as the game went on,” Mooney said on Fox Footy.
“When you’ve been out of the game for a period, sometimes just getting on the ball and being able to play behind the ball and run around is so much better for your confidence rather than play as a key forward.”
Speaking to Fox Footy after the match, Daw thanked everyone who had supported him throughout the past 18 months.
“It has been two years since I played. There’s no better feeling than winning,” Daw said.
“The last two years, all the battles I’ve gone through, it’s worth it. Winning with your teammates, my family at home watching. I haven’t been able to do it myself, there’s been so many people involved, the footy club have been amazing.
“The wider public, even when I was in hospital, the hospital staff there. They looked after me.
“I want to make special mention to my little boy at home, Hendrix, I wish he was up here with me. A message to everyone back home in Victoria, they are doing it pretty tough at the moment. To our supporters, I hope this win means something to you.”
North Melbourne’s round 10 fixture is against the Geelong Cats at the Gabba on Wednesday afternoon.