Pies and Hawks in Morwell on Friday

Homecoming: Hawthorn player Changkuoth Jiath, pictured playing at Morwell at in 2020, is set to play another practise match for the Hawks in Morwell this Friday. file photograph


HAWTHORN and Collingwood will come to Morwell Recreation Reserve this Friday.
The Hawks and Magpies are scheduled to play a practise match as part of the AFL’s unofficial fixture ahead of the AAMI Community Series.
Gippsland has a strong connection to both clubs, with current Hawthorn players Changkuoth Jiath and Jai Newcombe hailing from Morwell and Poowong respectively, while Collingwood captain and games record holder Scott Pendlebury grew up in Sale.
The links do not stop on the field, with Hawthorn’s VFL affiliate Box Hill coached by former Drouin player Clinton Proctor.
The match will present a homecoming for Jiath especially, who played for Morwell Football-Netball Club before making his way to Hawthorn.
Jiath, one of the AFL’s most exciting young players, recently signed a two-year contract
extension with the Hawks.
Jiath’s Gippsland teammate Newcombe became one of the feel-good stories of the AFL last season after being taken in the mid-season draft, completing a meteoric rise that saw him set the record for the most number of tackles for an AFL debutant.
Newcombe, who was once a mere mortal under the school captaincy of The Express’ police reporter Alyssa Fritzlaff, said the group was looking forward to venturing down to Morwell.
“It will be nice, I spent a bit of time there with Power, it will be good to get back down there,” he said.
“There is a few boys from the area so it is a bit of a homecoming for not just me but a couple of others, it will be nice to get back down and see some familiar faces and hopefully have a good day.”
Having defeated 2021 grand finalist Western Bulldogs, top four side Brisbane Lions and had a draw with recent powerhouse Richmond to end the previous season, Newcombe said the Hawks had hit this year’s pre-season with a lot of momentum.
“To finish off the way we did we take a lot of positives into the pre-season and the year ahead, hopefully we can build on it,” he said.
“Improvement is always the ultimate goal, after finishing the way we did the last thing we want to do is go backwards from where we are so improvement is front of mind with everything that is going on at the moment.
“For me it would be nice to break into the side and cement my spot, play some consistent footy and hopefully put some good performances together.”
Newcombe underwent a very unconventional pathway to the AFL and hit the headlines in the lead-up to his debut after it was revealed he had never played a game for Gippsland Power.
The Poowong local was overlooked in his 16th, 17th and 18th years at Power, making the grade as an over-age player in 2020, only for the season to be cancelled due to COVID.
Amazingly, before Box Hill, his only senior experience was playing for Poowong on the fields of the Ellinbank and District Football League.
Any youngster that is disheartened about not making the cut for a rep team could perhaps look at Newcombe as a case in point to what can be achieved through patience and persistence.
The man himself had some advice.
“Stick through what you love and keep following your passion,” he said.
“If you have the drive and think you’ve got the ability don’t give up, keep working hard and make the most of the opportunities that come your way.”
For those that are still disheartened, just think – Adrian Burgiel never played for Gippsland Power.