AFL Rd 9 - North Melbourne v Adelaide
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 01: Majak Daw of the Kangaroos celebrates after scoring a goal during the round nine AFL match between North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Adelaide Crows at Metricon Stadium on August 01, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

North Melbourne played Adelaide on Saturday afternoon in what on paper was an off-broadway game.

Indeed, the contest itself was dull, with North routing the Crows 119-50 in a blowout affair.

However, beneath the surface, one of football’s greatest stories added another inspirational chapter. It was our highlight of the 2020 season and one all Victorians need right now.

North Melbourne defender Majak Daw played his first AFL game in over 20 months in a comeback story that defies the odds.

Pure scenes of joy were shown across Australian TV screens as Daw was mobbed by teammates after kicking a goal early in the final quarter, a moment many thought would never come.

The football world was in shock in December 2018 – just one week before Christmas – after a sad incident at the Bolte Bridge nearly ended Daw’s life.

With his pelvis and hips completely shattered, Daw underwent excruciating treatment at Richmond’s Epworth Hospital, learning how to walk again with a return to football looking seemingly impossible.

The power and emotion of football has always been a crucial component for many, bringing us joy, sadness and anger and something to look forward to in dark times.

Indeed, football was that hope for Daw, with the opportunity to return a crucial component for the 27-year-old reclaiming his mental health. Credit must be given to North Melbourne, its players and coaches Rhyce Shaw and Brad Scott, for sticking by Daw and guiding his way back to AFL football.

North Melbourne are famous for the ‘Shinboner Spirit’, so perhaps there was no better club for the story of Majak Daw to continue at, with similarities apparent with former North player Jason McCartney.

Many comparisons can be made between the story of McCartney and Daw. One of the greatest stories in the history of football – McCartney famously came back to play in 2003 after suffering burns to 80 per cent of his body due to the Bali Bombings. He kicked a late goal to seal a crucial win and retired after the match on a high.

Right now, stories such as Majak’s are more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic, particularly affecting Victorians in Australia, has threatened the mental health of millions of people, with families and friends separated and many out of work.

Despite it all, Majak Daw’s inspirational story provides hope and something to smile about for many who are struggling. For all the criticism that the AFL has endured for continuing to play despite the continuing COVID-19 situation, these reasons are why football is an ‘essential service’.

“Life’s pretty hard. There are obstacles that get in the way, and we are seeing that with everything going on with COVID,”  Majak Daw said to media on Wednesday.

“There are a lot of people struggling but if you have the belief that it’s gonna turn, it can. I was really determined to make it back to help other people.

“For me to be able to work back to playing AFL footy, hopefully that gives people hope that they can get back to doing things they once loved.”

As the ‘footy frenzy’ continues, stories like Daw will hopefully continue to provide hope and a much needed lift for footy fans.

For that I say thanks. Thanks Majak and thanks footy for giving me and other fans something to smile about in these tough times.