On outer: Majak Daw at the launch of multicultural round last season. Photo: Pat Scala
WHEN Kangaroos coach Brad Scott finally - and sensibly - chose to publicly address the indefinite suspension of his club's Sudanese-born poster boy, Majak Daw, late yesterday, you could sense the frustration in his voice.
Daw, after all, is a 20-year-old rookie, who, despite the wishes of North Melbourne and the AFL, still seems some time away from making his senior debut and who clearly is not overly popular right now with his teammates.
No, insisted Scott, Daw had not stolen a teammate's female partner. Yes, he owed some players money, but that was not the issue. Dishonesty was at the heart of the club's decision to relegate Daw to Werribee following a late and drunken night out and subsequent absence from training.
Scott also made it clear to The Age and over the airwaves that Daw was not even a senior North Melbourne player and yet therein lies the problem for his club. That Daw is as well known as he is not only underlines the pressure on the young man due to his background but also due to the Kangaroos' lack of star power.
That could all change with the club's current youthful leadership push, and it needs to.
Even before he became the subject of disgraceful racist taunts in a VFL game last year, Daw remained a heavily hyped rookie and the Kangaroos remained a party to it.
They might have held him back on occasion, but they also briefed the media about him relatively often for his talent. This is understandable, for Daw symbolises what is good about the game, but to wrap him in cotton wool at the same time he was being promoted must have proved a little confusing.
It was also understandable given North Melbourne's position as a club that had just received significant public and private money to redevelop its headquarters to include a centre for local immigrants. Daw, quite recently, has also become more heavily involved in the AFL's multicultural umbrella as it works to expand the game for all manner of Australians and as it continues its work to fight racism.
As a face of the game's multicultural push, Daw's current predicament is unfortunate. The rookie was signed to a new two-year contract at the end of last season but still not promoted and has happily honoured his community commitments while struggling to come to grips with the organisational aspects of elite football.
From all reports, Scott and his players were more than justified in losing patience with the would-be senior ruckman, given the coach's demand for honesty.
More mystifying was yesterday's handling of the decision to punish Daw for breaking club protocols. In a statement, North explained Daw was suspended for ''missing rehabilitation sessions and acting contrary to the club's culture and professional expectations''.
As rumour and innuendo intensified, North chief executive Eugene Arocca and his football boss, Donald McDonald, fronted up and only served to fuel speculation. Last night's belated explanation was a flimsy attempt at backtracking when damage to a young reputation had already been inflicted.
Club chiefs should not call press conferences and then say nothing. Why is it that Scott seems to be one of the few off-field leaders at the club capable of taking charge and showing leadership at such crucial moments?
If Arocca and McDonald wanted to stick with political correctness they should have avoided such a time-waster and released a statement and left it at that. Daw never asked to become a political football but he seems forever lumbered with that tag now.