If the opportunity presented itself, Majak Daw would jump at the chance to return to Sudan.
The 27-year-old, in his ninth season of AFL, told a group of Sudanese youths that he’d love nothing more than to return to his place of birth for a trip, one day soon.
Daw hasn’t been back to Sudan since he and his family fled the civil war when he was just nine, but dreams about reuniting with his grandparents and extended family in the not too distant future.
“I’m not scared to go back to Sudan,” Daw told his curious audience.
“I just need to find the right time to return and really plan a proper trip.”
Speaking to around 30 students – who moved to Victoria from either Darfur or the Nuba Mountains in Sudan – Daw couldn’t help but see a younger version of himself in each and every one of them.
“I just want to make myself available to you all and show the Australian community as well as our own kids and community that we are good people doing good things,” Daw told them during a special clinic arranged by The Huddle.
“And if you can’t see a representation of yourself, you won’t know what you can be or the options you have.”
The occasion was far from just another football education session for Daw, but a way to connect with youths from a similar background.
“For me it isn’t all about footy,” Daw said.
“Footy is my passion and my dream, but the fact that I can get out in front of so many people and encourage others to get involved in their community, that’s what’s important.
“It gives me confidence that there will be more African people in the AFL.
“I love being able to teach other people about my culture and my biggest goal is to bridge the gap between the African and the Australian culture.”
The students Daw addressed are part of an initiative called iCan, started by not-for-profit Stand Up which runs programs that focus on strengthening the Sudanese community from within by creating role models through tutoring, goal setting, and career guidance.
And Daw’s influence and impact on the young group could not be overstated.
“Majak comes from the same background as us and has shown that if we work hard we can achieve a lot,” Shema Mohamed said.
As Mohamed commented on what Daw meant to the group, four young women sitting next to her nodded enthusiastically.
Throughout the afternoon Daw was asked about the ins and outs of being an elite athlete, how he got such large biceps, how he found his passion, stays motivated, and if he gets nervous playing in front of tens-of-thousands of people.
Judging by his standout performance against Melbourne on the weekend in front of 35,000 people at the MCG, the answer to that last question is a profound, ‘No’.
So for now, football is the main thing on Daw’s mind and making sure he stays in the North Melbourne side, but when the season is over, he might just end up on a plane heading to Africa.
Click here to find out more about The Huddle and its programs.