EXCITEMENT around Geelong's Nakia Cockatoo has been put on hold as the livewire forward continues to manage his troublesome hamstrings that will rule him out of round one.
Cockatoo, who enters 2020 on a one-year contract, remains at least a month away from playing matches at any level after yet another frustrating pre-season.
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The 23-year-old had impressed on the training track up until January, even prompting superstar Cat Patrick Dangerfield to label him a potential point of "difference" for Geelong this season.
However, he has been backed off his loads in recent weeks after complaining of the same hamstring soreness that restricted him to just 40 minutes of VFL football for the entire 2019 campaign.
"The body's going OK at the moment, it's just trying to get my hammy strength back up to 100 per cent," Cockatoo said on Sunday.
"Hopefully, I’m back fully training soon and playing some footy.
"I'm making sure I'm doing everything right in the gym and making sure I'm up-and-running for training sessions.
"I want to make sure everything is all right before I do go 100 per cent.
Cockatoo hasn't been seen at AFL level since round three, 2018, a season in which he twice suffered damage to his PCL.
The former No.10 draft pick has also battled a series of soft tissue setbacks across his 34-game career – including three hamstring injuries in 2017 before he was recalled for a preliminary final.
Chris Scott is an unabashed fan of Cockatoo, while his teammates are desperate for his bullocking presence to return.
"He's going to be one of the biggest differences that we have this year," Dangerfield told SEN in January.
"The challenge for him is he's been too powerful for his own good early and he's starting to get that balance of when to push yourself incredibly hard and burst through three tackles versus just holding the tackler up.
"It has taken him a while to adjust to that and understand, but I think he's slowly getting there now."
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Jack Steven (calf) is still working back to full fitness, while Joel Selwood (hamstring), Jake Kolodjashnij (hip) and Mitch Duncan (hip) remain on modified duties.