Nic Naitanui, the game’s most recognisable international representative, has come out in support of North Melbourne’s Majak Daw after he was allegedly the subject of racial vilification during Saturday’s game.
Having already been targeted multiple times during his first handful of games, the men accused of abusing Daw were evicted from Etihad Stadium and face action from the AFL over the incident.
Naitanui has come out in support of Daw, and said that while it’s disappointing that racism is still an issue in AFL, plenty of work is being done to prevent it.
“It is pretty sad and disheartening. The players know vilification isn’t accepted and it isn’t alright, but it only takes one or two idiots in the crowd to go and change that,” he said. “Now with the AFL laws they’re pretty good, there’s a camera everywhere and they can pick them up and kick them out as they did in Majak’s case.
“It’s sad it still does happen, it wouldn’t happen on the field, it’s probably more an educational thing for the guys behind the fence.”
Daw has faced plenty of hype before even playing his first game, being the first Sudanese-born player to join an AFL club when drafted in 2009 by North Melbourne. His debut has been a long time coming for North fans, and the fruits of his labour behind the scenes were on full display after bagging six goals against the Dogs last round.
Daw had already shown plenty of potential in the VFL, where he was also the subject of racial abuse before he even took the field for the Kangaroos. Naitanui recalled speaking to him previously on the issue, and says it’s something he’s had to rise above.
“I have spoken to Majak a few times. Last time I spoke to him I got in touch through the footy club, one of my old eighteens assistant coaches who is now at North wanted me to talk to him when he was copping a bit of vilification in the VFL,” he recalls. “I just explained to him, at the end of the day they’re words.
“You go out there and prove you’re worthy to be out on the field, don’t let that stop you. Because at the end of the day we’re at that stage were we’ve got a pretty good community, especially the AFL community – just judging people on their ability not their race or their background.”
He also touched on the importance of growing the game for kids who come to the footy, where it’s not something that should take place.
“The kids who come to the games, they couldn’t care less what you look like,” he said. “Obviously report it if it happens, we don’t want it around, going back to the children and young generations coming to the footy.
“They don’t want to hear or see that.”
With the game continuing to expand internationally, racism in the AFL is a big issue that needs to be continually monitored.
Naitanui has supported the AFL’s decision to evict the patrons, and thinks it’s positive that people are willing to report racism and help erase it from the game.
“It’s not accepted and it’s good that there’s people in the crowd willing to dob those guys in.”