Even if Geelong speedster Nakia Cockatoo manages to string a consistent block of games together free of injury, the 21-year-old remains a fair way from being among the Cats’ best players.
At least that’s the view of Cats coach Chris Scott, who has moved to reduce the expectation on the dynamic youngster who has been plagued with injury in his first three seasons at the club.
Cockatoo has now played 32 games but he has not played more than six weeks in succession as knee, calf and, in 2017, hamstring injuries kept him sidelined.
He is also yet to exceed 15 disposals in a game although everyone knows he has the tools to be an exceptional player and to cause damage with minimal touches.
Geelong revealed their high opinion of Cockatoo when they selected him to return from injury in the preliminary final despite a seven-week absence but the coach was cautious when appraising his prospects in 2018.
“I would not be telling the whole truth if I said I can guarantee he is going to be one of our best players next year,” Scott said. “He has a lot of hoops to jump through.”
Those hoops aren’t just related to the hamstring problems that ruined the second half of 2017 – although they are part of the puzzle – but the game sense the raw midfielder is still developing.
“Even if he does get a clear run [with injury] this year he is going to have a few slightly rough edges, but a lot of the highly talented players did at that stage in their career,” Scott said.
Scott said the club had been on a learning curve in how to best condition Cockatoo, who, the coach conceded, was susceptible to soft-tissue injuries.
Meanwhile the club was being cautious in building veteran rookie Stewart Crameri back to full fitness but he expected the 29-year-old to be available for pre-season games.
“He’s still a little bit delayed and we knew that and we knew we had to careful with him,” Scott said. “He had both hips done during the year and it got to the point where it looked like he wasn’t going to play so that [the surgeries] delayed him a bit further.
“Besides long kicking, he’s pretty much unencumbered, not that we’re pushing him in to anything.”