Hawthorn young gun Changkuoth Jiath says a chat with Sam Mitchell at the end of the 2019 season spurred his desire to become a better player.
Speaking to Dylan Buckley in a recent episode of the Dyl & Friends podcast, the man affectionately known as 'CJ' said a conversation with the now-Hawthorn coach inspired him to take his game to the next level.
“We were just sitting in the office and halfway through the conversation he just goes ‘CJ, why are you not playing AFL footy?' You’ve got the speed, you've got the athleticism, how come you're not playing every week?," CJ said.
"I thought 'that’s a great question – why aren’t I?' So then I went away and that’s pretty much how it started.
“He’s a genius – he can see a lot of potential in a lot of people.”
The rising star is now coming off a breakout 2021 campaign having picked up Hawthorn’s Most Promising Player award to add to his AFL Players' Association 22Under22 selection.
While Jiath’s playing career has been very impressive, his family’s journey from Sudan to Australia is also inspiring.
The 22-year-old was born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia before traveling to Melbourne when he was six-years-old.
“What I could remember from then was that I didn’t really worry about what I didn’t have – I was just worried about playing soccer as a kid and just having my friends and family. I didn’t even think about not having food or water," Jiath said.
"(When I arrived to Australia) I knew no English - all I knew was hello and goodbye.
“Not knowing how to communicate with other people was tough.
"As soon as the bell rang we'd just go to the soccer oval and have a kick - that's how we met friends and how we communicated."