New Geelong Cats recruit Emerson Jeka (Image via Geelong Cats FC)

Former Hawthorn swingman Emerson Jeka has spoken on his 'shock' move to Geelong, with the mature-aged recruit setting his sights on a potential Round 1 debut with the Cats.

Jeka was delisted by the Hawks at the cessation of the 2023 season after four years at Waverley, where he played seven matches at AFL level as both a key forward and defender.

The 22-year-old was a surprise recruit for the Cats in Wednesday's Rookie Draft, with Geelong adding the Altona junior to their list of recruits after selecting six players at the National Draft earlier in the week.

Jeka had signed with Essendon's VFL program for 2024 in the hope of landing a career lifeline through the Supplemental Selection Period or Mid-Season Draft at the Bombers, while he also had plans to work at his cousin's gym as a personal trainer.

The Cats' move came as a surprise to the 198cm utility, with Jeka not knowing he'd be on his way to a new club until five minutes prior to Wednesday's intake.

"It's been really interesting. I was really committed to Essendon and I had a session with them on Monday," Jeka told media on Thursday.

"I actually didn't think I would end up here. Then [Wednesday] Shane (O'Bree) gave me a call about five minutes beforehand and said 'yeah, we're going to pick you up'.

New Geelong Cats recruit Emerson Jeka (Image via Geelong Cats FC)

"I was initially shocked, but I'm really happy to be here. I think it's going to give me the best opportunity to become a really good footballer.

"With injuries this year, it hasn't helped. I'm just really fortunate that Geelong gave me an opportunity and I'll give that 110%."

Jeka wasn't the only mature recruit for the Cats this week, with Werribee's Shaun Mannagh, Barwon Heads' Oliver Wiltshire and Swan Districts' Lawson Humphries heading to Kardinia Park after being selected with Picks 36, 61 and 63 at the National Draft respectively.

With AFL experience already under his belt, Jeka is hopeful he can have an immediate impact at his new club.

"I think so. Gotta aim high," Jeka said when asked on his hopes of playing in Geelong's season opener against St Kilda.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Emerson Jeka of Box Hill celebrates his goal during the round five VFL match between Box Hill and North Melbourne at Box Hill City Oval on May 16, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

"This is the [right] environment, there's so many good players to learn off, and I'm going to do everything I can to play Round 1."

Much like Geelong departure Esava Ratugolea, Jeka started his career as a tall forward but was more recently trialled as a defender with Hawthorn's VFL affiliate Box Hill.

Set to slot into the locker beside five-time All-Australian backman Tom Stewart, Jeka is likely to start his life as a Cat down back and could be the man to replace Ratugolea in Scott's rearguard.

The versatile tall is open to wherever the club wants him to play, but believes his best football will come on Geelong's last line.

"Just wherever Chris (Scott) wants me to play," he said.

"I feel that's a strength of mine, that I can play both ends, which is great. Wherever they need me to play, I'll do that.

"There's an opportunity there (to play in defence), and I just need to take it with both hands. I feel like I play my best football down back.

"I can be versatile and play some good football up forward, but I think the backline is where it's at and I'll do everything I can to earn a spot down there."

The Cats also recruited Connor O'Sullivan (Pick 11), Mitch Edwards (Pick 32) and George Stevens (Pick 58) at the National Draft as well.

Geelong will start their 2024 season at GMHBA Stadium against the Saints on Saturday, March 16.