“He knows he is in for a tough battle with our backline, no one is given a game, so he has got to perform. We are really pleased with where he is at right now.”
Sources at North Melbourne said the club wasn’t putting huge expectations on Daw in his bid to return to AFL footy and that Walker – recruited from the Brisbane Lions after the 2019 season – had been impressive in his first pre-season at Arden Street.
Walker, Daw and Sam Durdin will rotate through the two key defensive spots for the Kangaroos on Friday with first choice Robbie Tarrant injured. When Tarrant returns only one of the other three would usually play in their full strength side.
Daw played in the VFL for North Melbourne in early July last year but hurt his hamstring a few weeks later, an injury that ended his season.
The 28-year-old went through six months of intensive rehabilitation after he was pulled from the Yarra River in mid-December 2018.
He had serious injuries and had two 15-centimetre-long metal rods put in each of his hips as a result.
Daw had to learn to walk and run again after the incident, Kangaroos veteran Brent Harvey said last year.
Shaw added: “Maj did a lot of work to get to that point [playing VFL] and maybe his body wasn’t ready for the rigours of football again.
“I think he got through a few stages but he started to get those niggles and ultimately did his hamstring. We have worked really hard, and the strength and conditioning team inside have done a fantastic job to get him as he is. And now he has had a clean run, now he is playing and that’s all we’re worried about.”
Daw will likely play on Bulldogs star Aaron Naughton on Friday. He played in an intra club match at Arden Street last week and observers reported he performed strongly and looked in good touch for someone who had barely played since 2018. That 2018 season saw Daw come of age in North’s defence. He has completed a full pre-season and is physically ready for AFL battle.
Shaw said Ben Brown, Jack Ziebell, Tarrant, Shaun Higgins and Jared Polec – all injured – would not play on Friday night but hoped all would be right for round one and even get a practice match in before the season proper begins.
Off-season recruit Aiden Bonar will also play.
“There’s big competition in the midfield, we have got a really stacked group but I am looking forward to seeing Bon, he’s done really well,” Shaw said.
“He did some pretty good things [in the intra-club match last week]. He is someone that’s built up over the pre-season, I think he will really like the opposition and getting a rotation.”
Tim English, Josh Bruce and Matt Suckling won’t play for the Western Bulldogs with English missing through concussion.
All three are expected to be fit for their second practice match on March 7 against Port Adelaide.
Easton Wood, ruled out last week, will also miss but new recruit Alex Keath will play.
Anthony is a sports reporter at The Age.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.