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Top-line Hawks get VIP treatment in Moe

Jaeger O'Meara (pictured at training in December) was among the most popular Hawks in Moe. Picture: Getty Images - AFL,Hawthorn Hawks
Jaeger O'Meara (pictured at training in December) was among the most popular Hawks in Moe. Picture: Getty Images

THE ROAR wasn't quite reminiscent of the first bounce in an AFL Grand Final, but Moe's brown-and-gold diehards did their best.

Hawthorn's senior group – minus Cyril Rioli and Grant Birchall – earned a raucous welcome as Luke Breust told reporters who would fill the leadership vacuum in Luke Hodge's and Josh Gibson's absence.

It was fitting the question came from a shaggy-haired local, Johnathan Hipwell, who was on duty for Gippsland FM and wearing a Hawks jersey. 

One woman was particularly thrilled to see the session start, after bellowing a none-too-polite request at least twice for them to get going with their sun-drenched training session.

Hawthorn's trip to Moe's Ted Summerton Reserve, more than 100km south-east of Waverley Park, wasn't random, given Gippsland is one of the club's Next Generation Academy zones. 

The relationship has already paid dividends.

Athletic Gippsland Power and Xavier College graduate Changkuoth Jiath, who was born in an Ethiopian refugee camp, joined the Hawks as a category B rookie in November.

Jiath, still on his L-plates, racked up another hour or so of Jason Burt-supervised driving experience on the way back to home territory.

His family was overjoyed to see him, and donned Hawthorn gear sporting "Jiath 43" for the occasion.

Jiath isn't the Hawks' sole connection to the region: captain Jarryd Roughead is a Leongatha product, while head of coaching and development Damian Carroll is a past Power coach.

Roughead's father, Michael, won two flags and played 200 games for the Leongatha Parrots and made the short trek to watch his son, who had minor knee surgery in December.

Carroll, one of footy's renowned good guys, got to work with emerging footballers Teia Miles and Oliver Hanrahan as they went head-to-head in a goal-dribbling contest. 

Competition for spots at Hawthorn promises to be hot in 2018, with a host of stars set to return from injury, so the playful match was part of a bigger picture for the youngsters. 

There was no shortage of talent on display, but some players were more restricted than others.

Ruckmen Ben McEvoy and Jonathon Ceglar, Will Langford and new rookie Harrison Jones ran laps as teammates trained in the middle, and Jack Gunston joined them later.

One kid found it amusing to yell "Go Bombers!" each time they came within cooee, but most people there belonged to the Hawks brethren.

Their hearts would have warmed at the sight of Jaeger O'Meara running around. 

O'Meara also proved popular post-session when Hawthorn players took part in some kick-to-kick with the local kids.

Big or small, everyone wanted a piece of him, so Moe wasn't so different to anywhere else.

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