THE TIME has come for Brisbane to unleash Nakia Cockatoo.
The former Geelong powerhouse was the Lions' unused medical sub in Saturday's win over Gold Coast and should be named in the 22 to play Hawthorn on Sunday.
It would be the first time he's featured in an AFL game since April 8, 2018, when he played for the Cats against West Coast at Optus Stadium.
It's been a long, and at times difficult, first season for the 24-year-old at his new club, but he's now ready to play at the top level.
Cockatoo has played eight VFL matches this season, the most recent coming on Sunday when he kicked two goals from 13 disposals against Greater Western Sydney.
Little by little he's gained confidence in his body and built it back to an AFL standard.
With four matches remaining until the finals, it's a perfect runway for Brisbane to insert a player that could be a September wildcard.
Cockatoo has similar physical attributes to Cam Rayner – a man the Lions lost during pre-season to a ruptured ACL – and would provide another target opposition teams would have to respect.
Sunday was another sign Cockatoo was ready for the next step, running out the game strongly and putting an exclamation point on his day with a thumping goal from outside 50m that sailed well over the goal umpire's head.
Brisbane signed him last off-season following five injury-riddled years at Geelong with hopes of reviving his career in a similar vein to that of Lincoln McCarthy.
It's taken time, though.
Cockatoo has been dogged by persistent hamstring niggles that both he and the club have been incredibly patient with.
Two games in, one game rest, two games in, one game rest, and the cycle went on.
He has noticeably trimmed down in recent weeks, and even more encouragingly for Brisbane, Cockatoo has hit top speed during his recent matches, splitting packs and winning one-on-two contests with brute force.
Finding a spot for him is difficult in a team that obliterated the Suns with a 13 goals to one second half at the weekend.
Someone would be unlucky, whether it's young defender James Madden, wingman Jarrod Berry who has been in-and-out with injury, versatile Cal Ah Chee who seems to switch ends every other week, or even veteran Grant Birchall whose form has been up and down.
Cockatoo is a match-winner and now his body is ready to play ball.