Morwell's Changkuoth Jiath has enjoyed a blistering start to the 2021 AFL season

 Morwell local Changkuoth Jiath in action for the Hawks.
Morwell local Changkuoth Jiath in action for the Hawks.

Morwell product Changkuoth Jiath is all the buzz in the AFL world at the moment following a fantastic start to the season off half-back for Hawthorn.

Utilising his blistering speed, eye-catching athleticism and pin-point skills, Jiath (affectionately known as CJ) is well and truly a star on the rise and a key pillar to Hawthorn's current rebuild.

Most recently seen plying his craft on one of the game's biggest stages in the famous Easter Monday clash against Geelong, he said the significance of the day did not faze him.

"It was good (playing on Easter Monday)," Jiath said.

"The opportunity to play in front of such a big crowd was exciting and it was also a great learning for us as a team and it gives us a fantastic chance to continue to grow."

With a number of defensive stalwarts departing the club following last season, an opportunity in the Hawks back six opened for the 21-year-old.

Jiath said continuity in his training over the pre-season was critical in allowing him to put his best foot forward.

"The pre-season went really well, it was not like any other we've had before as we changed and tweaked a few little things as a team," he said.

"Body wise it has definitely been the best pre-season I have had, coming off that it gives you a lot of confidence leading into practice matches and things like that,

"It gave me the opportunity to really improve as a player and grow, being able to train in the back line alongside guys like Sam Frost, Will Day and players like that really gives you a little boost along the way."

This off-season improvement saw the coaching staff instil more confidence in Jiath as the licence to take the game on and use his weapons has seen him settle nicely into the heightened pace of AFL football.

"The coaches encourage us to use our weapons when we play, for me it happens to be running and speed so they really urge me to take the game on and attack from the back half, so it feels good that they have so much trust in me to play my natural way," he said.

"The more games you play the more confident you become, so just having the belief I can do it and trust from the coaches has allowed me to settle into the pace of the game well."

Born in Ethiopia, Jiath spent the early years of his life in refugee camps before his family were given the opportunity to move to Australia in 2007.

This would see Morwell become CJ's new home, as he entered a town obsessed by a game he'd never heard of in Australian Rules football.

He details what it was that drew him to the game.

"Half of it was to do with my mates growing up and encouraging to come and try the game and the other half was seeing it on TV and wishing that one day that could be you," he said.

"I did not know what football was until I was about 11 years old and it really helped me settle into the community up here."

Jiath's football journey began at the Morwell Youth Football Club before moving onto the Morwell Tigers, he says the impact of playing in the Latrobe Valley was massive for his development as both an athlete and person.

"Both clubs helped me a lot, not knowing how to play football really they taught me the ropes and gave me the opportunity to play seniors at 15 years old and definitely helped me develop," he said.

"It is such a good and welcoming community, football brings everyone in together to meet new people so it has been fantastic being able to play in Gippsland and Morwell,

"I was able to meet a lot of new friends and families through that and it was definitely very beneficial to where I am now."

Now having moved onto the AFL, Jiath says he will always keep a keen eye over his beloved Morwell Tigers with older brother Kuiy running around in the senior side.

"With my older brother playing in the seniors I will definitely following the Tigers closely," he said.

"I am sure I will be heading down whenever I get a chance throughout the year."