SLOWLY but surely, Nakia Cockatoo is showing "glimpses" of his huge talent for Brisbane.
After an injury-ravaged past three years, the former No.10 draft pick has played four of a possible six VFL games for the Lions as he looks to rebuild his body.
Brisbane has taken an ultra-cautious approach with Cockatoo, and VFL coach Mitch Hahn says the wheel is turning.
"Nakia is building really well. He's starting to show glimpses of his massive upside, which is exciting," Hahn said.
"His general aggression and attack on the contest is AFL standard and we're hopeful he'll continue to build."
That "attack on the contest" is what has impressed the Lions more than anything, with his power slowly returning.
To say it's been a long road since Cockatoo last played AFL would be an understatement.
His most recent outing at the top level was on April 8, 2018 when he lined up against West Coast for Geelong in Perth.
From the moment he hurt his PCL in that game, it's been a grind.
Cockatoo suffered the same injury again later that year and was then restricted to less than a half of footy at VFL level in 2019 with hamstring problems slowing his progress.
He played a string of practice matches last year before undergoing wrist surgery, but with teams depleted in the hubs – often playing 12-a-side - it was hard to gauge his progress.
Following six seasons and just 34 games at Geelong, the dynamic utility sought a fresh start in the off-season and was traded to Brisbane – where former teammate Linc McCarthy has flourished after similar injury woes.
MEDICAL ROOM The full AFL injury list
McCarthy had played just 29 senior games in seven seasons at Geelong, and a similar number at VFL level, but has missed just one with injury since joining the Lions at the end of 2018.
He told The Roar Deal podcast he saw similarities between his own comeback and Cockatoo's.
"It's difficult," McCarthy said. "Your body gets so used to certain bits of pain you start to second guess your own thoughts and feelings.
GO INSIDE THE COACHES' BOX FOR THE BIG ONE
All the tension and sounds from the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final in ON DEMANDWATCH NOW
"It's something you've got to keep grinding away and keep telling yourself you'll be right if you keep putting the work in.
"Cocky is grinding away at that the moment.
"He's looking pretty lively. Hopefully he keeps building and we see him out there regularly."