He has not played since round 23, 2018, by co-incidence also against the Saints, having suffered career-threatening hip and pelvic injuries after a fall from the Bolte Bridge in December, 2018.
The Kangaroos expect he will have a key role to play in defence, with coach Rhyce Shaw hoping the 29-year-old can maintain the momentum he generated during pre-season matches against the Western Bulldogs and Sydney.
“Maj was certainly really solid throughout the Marsh [series]. I thought he took steps in each game and the practice match against Melbourne,” he said.
“I think against Sydney we saw a bit of what we expect from Maj, back a couple of years ago. He has certainly taken steps and he looked really good.”
What has been forgotten is that Daw had solidified his spot in the side in 2018, when he averaged 12 disposals, 2.9 intercept marks and 5.4 spoils per game in 18 appearances. He is one of just three North players rated “elite” by Champion Data.
Should Daw, a fan favourite, not play, it would be a blow for the Kangaroos, who have the sixth-best list in quality, according to Champion Data, despite having not featured in September since 2014.
Former Brisbane Lions and Geelong swingman Josh Walker will line up for his third club, five months after being delisted by the Lions.
Walker impressed through the summer and has been earmarked for a role in defence.
“Josh has been a fantastic pick up for us. he has fitted in really well in our backline. He is a fantastic bloke and has a real aptitude and attitude for competition and I know he is looking to solidify himself in our side,” Shaw said.
Rebounding half-back Aaron Hall will play his first game since round six last season, while youngster Curtis Taylor is set for his third senior match.
Shaw said onballer Jy Simpkin, ranked “average” by Champion Data, was ready to leave an imprint.
“Jy really took a step up this pre-season. He is a young fella in a hurry to get places. He really trained with intensity and got the ball rolling,” he said.
“He has got to the point where he is now in our leadership group, which is fantastic.”
The Kangaroos have split opinion through the pre-season. They have the second-highest rated midfield, including ruckmen, with Shaun Higgins, Ben Cunnington and Todd Goldstein set to again lead the way, and went 7-5 under Shaw when replaced Brad Scott last season, finishing 12th (10-12 win-loss record).
However, there are still doubts as to whether they are good enough to make the finals, something Shaw dismisses.
“Of course I do,” he said, when asked if he thought the Roos could reach the post-season. “I have got full faith in our group and our club and the direction we are going in.”
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.