Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The last few rounds of the AFL season ushered in many new talents across many clubs as they blooded players that either needed another look, or needed the senior AFL experience to prosper into the future. Hawthorn and Essendon were two clubs that tired this, but in their cases they were giving the football world a glimpse into the next phase of African nation footballers.
Round 21 saw Hawthorn debut their exciting youngster, Changkuoth Jiath. His first game, played in Canberra complete with snowfall, saw the highly athletic Jiath galloping all over the field and picking up a handy 11 possessions, five of which were contested. It was a confident start to a career in the big league.
Photo Credits: Changkuoth Jiath (http://www.hawthornfc.com.au), Tuth Jok (Herald Sun) It was enough to convince selectors to give him a second outing the following week where he collected 18 possessions and used his pace and elusive running to advantage. Unluckily, with Hawthorn still a chance to make finals in the final round, Jiath was dropped back to reserve grade and was a spectator as the Hawks upset the Eagles in Perth.
But the lightly framed, 185cm runner had made his point. Part of the Box Hill Hawks premiership in 2018, Jiath has stated that he has what it takes to play top level next season. That is a great story for the Ethiopian born youngster. His parents were from South Sudan and Jiath arrived in Australia as a refugee when he was just six years old.
He did his nation, family, club and himself proud donning the brown and gold on the big stage and can rightfully aspire to join other talented African players in Aliir Aliir, Majak Daw and Mabior Chol at the highest level next year.
Tuth (Tom) Jok debuted for Essendon last weekend in their Round 23 match against Collingwood. The Bombers were already guaranteed a finals berth, so used the opportunity to freshen players and blood Jok – formerly having played at VFL level with Collingwood.
The 193cm athlete snared a cool dozen possessions, but that wasn’t what caught the eye. His huge contested mark to stifle a Collingwood attack got a huge roar, but the fact that his incredible endurance was used to effect – 15.5 kilometres travelled on the night: the best of anyone on the field – showed just how much potential the athletic Jok has.
Also born in South Sudan, Jok is yet another looming Sudanese and African success story and a potential star of the game. His athleticism combined with football skills is almost scary to think about.
With finals, draft and trade period and the usual impatience of an off-season, the names of Jiath and Jok may disappear from people’s memories prior to next season. However, based on their auspicious debuts, both may well be in the running to be Round 1 selections for the 2020 season. After that, they could well be household names – at least at the clubs they now represent and perhaps beyond.
That really would be another football success story.
World Footy News