For a player who’s never played a game of senior AFL footy, North Melbourne rookie Majak Daw sure gets a lot of attention.
He’s the first Sudanese-born player listed by an AFL club, so you can understand there’s some public interest there.
But does he warrant the kind of attention the Herald Sun gave him today?
The paper’s front page had a picture of a shirtless Daw next to a headline that read: “A former teammate’s ex, partying, an unpaid debt … what went wrong with footy’s young gun.”
The associated story mentions that he owes a teammate a sum of money below $1000 and also had a relationship with the ex-girlfriend of a former teammate, issues which may or may not be causing angst among fellow players (the Herald Sun weren’t able to confirm they were).
So where did all this come from? Why did the nation’s most popular paper give all this attention to a rookie who’s yet to play a game?
Well, it all started when Daw had a night on the town instead of doing rehab on an injured knee at home. Later, coach Brad Scott confronted him about it and he lied, saying he wasn’t at a nightclub that night.
So Scott finds out the truth and Daw gets suspended for his lie. North Melbourne then release a press release stating he’s been suspended but refuse to reveal why.
That’s when things started to get out of hand. The media, unhappy about not being given the reason for the suspension, started to dig around (which was fine, that is their job). When they dug, though, they found more than they bargained for, and that’s how we got today’s front page.
Make no mistake, the story today was a beat-up. Do we really care who Daw is seeing or if he has a minor debt with a teammate? At the very least, do we care enough for this stuff to be on the front page?
No, we don’t. But it’s worth noting whether we care or not was not the Herald Sun’s justification.
Mark Robinson had a comment piece in the paper today which blamed North Melbourne for all the attention on Daw.
“A wordy press release that Majak Daw had been suspended, on which the club wouldn’t elaborate, made this bigger than it should’ve been,” he wrote.
“And it is North’s fault. […] The ‘we’re not telling but he’s done something wrong’ stance by the club set the wolves hunting.”
Still, many readers weren’t happy. Among them was another high-profile athlete, Andrew Bogut, who took to Twitter with his disappointment.
In response, Herald Sun journo Jon Ralph tweeted: “It’s never the fault of the player (lying), or club (butchered press release). It’s always the tabloid media!!!”
Ultimately, Ralph is right. All three parties must share the blame.
Daw shouldn’t have been out partying when he should’ve been at home doing rehab. He also shouldn’t have lied about it.
North, in hindsight, should’ve stated that lying to the coach was the reason for the suspension. Ironically, they were probably trying to protect their young player from the media by not saying anything and in an ideal world, that would work out. But they let their player down by not taking a more realistic approach.
The media, meanwhile, need to learn that while a club staying quiet does give you permission to dig a little deeper, it doesn’t mean you have permission to publish everything you find – especially when you publish information (the debt, the girlfriend) entirely unrelated to the story in question (Daw being suspended).
As for putting it on the front page, well, surely there’s more important things that belong there.