James Blanck and Changkuoth Jiath both seriously injured in Hawthorn Hawks' practice match disaster

Shayne Hope
The Nightly
James Blanck goes down in a tackle at Hawthorn training.
James Blanck goes down in a tackle at Hawthorn training. Credit: 7NEWS/ 7NEWS

Hawthorn defender James Blanck will miss the entire AFL season with a knee injury and dashing teammate Changkuoth Jiath is again sidelined with a soft-tissue concern following a costly practice match.

The key pair were hurt during the intra-club hit-out at Waverley Park on Thursday, adding to the Hawks’ injury woes ahead of their round-one clash with Essendon on March 16.

Blanck damaged his left knee in a tackle and will undergo surgery to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, leaving a hole in Hawthorn’s back-line for their third season under Sam Mitchell.

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The promising 23-year-old has impressed in a key defensive post since being picked up in the 2022 mid-season rookie draft.

“We all feel for James at this point in time following a strong pre-season and what looked to be a promising year ahead,” Hawks football manager Rob McCartney said.

“In saying this, James’s character will see him quickly turn his attention to being diligent throughout his rehab so he can return to the field in 2025 ready to build on the development we have seen during his first two seasons in the brown and gold.

“As a club, we will now support James as best we can during his recovery phase. We are all feeling for him.”

AFL star Changkuoth Jiath limped off the field with a hamstring issue and James Blanck was in serious pain after he twisted his knee.

Quick playmaker Jiath has been slated for a move to the wing this year and impressed in that role during the first half of Thursday’s full-length scratch match.

But the 24-year-old speedster injured a hamstring during the second quarter and was immediately sent for scans, which revealed a strain that will keep him out of action for six to eight weeks.

Jiath, who has a history of hamstring issues, managed just eight games last season as he battled calf, groin and achilles injuries.

He spent time in Qatar over the off-season working with biomechanics experts in a bid to stay injury-free throughout 2024.

“Changkuoth was removed from the intra-club match after feeling some discomfort in his hamstring whilst sprinting,” Hawthorn head doctor Liam West said.

“Unfortunately, scans revealed he has suffered a moderate-grade strain, which will now see him sidelined for at least the next six weeks.

“Given Changkuoth’s body of work over the summer months, including a recent trip to Qatar, we are confident he can make a full return to play in the early rounds of the season.”

Changkuoth Jiath at Hawthorn training on Thursday.
Changkuoth Jiath at Hawthorn training on Thursday. Credit: 7NEWS

Hawthorn are already set to be without reigning best-and-fairest winner Will Day for round one as he recovers from a foot stress fracture.

Dylan Moore is also in serious doubt for the Essendon clash after being diagnosed with glandular fever, which will keep him sidelined for a month.

In better news for the Hawks, emerging youngster Josh Weddle has signed a two-year contract extension.

It ties the 19-year-old speedster to the Hawks until at least the end of 2026.

Weddle played 17 games in his debut season last year after arriving at the Hawks as pick No.18 in the 2022 draft.

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