K rock Football

Hit-out goes to script for Cocky

Nakia Cockatoo kicks for goal in Geelong’s VFL practice match win over Werribee. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Al Packer)

IF last night’s VFL practice match was Nakia Cockatoo’s audition for a spot in Geelong’s Round 1 AFL team then it is fair to say he didn’t fluff his lines.

With coach Chris Scott in the stands, Cockatoo showed no signs that he had been battling a calf issue for most of the month, impressing all at GMHBA Stadium with his 16-possession performance in the midfield against Werribee, which also included two goals.

“It went to plan, in terms of his minutes, and he looked pretty sharp, we thought,” Scott said after the match.

“It’s a little bit hard to judge where this VFL practice game is (in intensity) compared to AFL footy – a fair bit behind I would have thought, but he couldn’t have done much more.”

Cockatoo, who has played just 33 games in his three seasons at the club due to a litany of soft-tissue injuries, now has his fingers crossed he will be in the final team to take on Melbourne on March 25

“I hope I did my best to hopefully put my hand up for Round 1,” he said. “But, I just went out tonight and just really played my game.

“Unfortunately the calves let me down so I sat out the last quarter, but I felt good going into the game — fit, healthy

“I’m just looking forward to training next week and hopefully getting a game.”

Scott says with the nine-day gap between matches, Cockatoo will get plenty of opportunity to continue to press his claims.

“That will help him,” Scott said. “But he’s done a fair bit of work through the pre-season, so it’s only been a little mishap that’s kept him out.

“If anything, we think that might freshen him up a little bit.

“When we look at the body of work over a three or four month period, he’s prepared for Round 1.

“It’s more a question how he pulls up from this game and how he trains next week. but we don’t have too many concerns there.

All eyes were also on former Western Bulldogs and Essendon forward Stewart Crameri in his first game of football for more than 10 months following a persistent hip problem that required surgery.

He didn’t kick a goal, but he took some strong marks and did enough to give Scott and his coaching staff something to ponder about leading into the clash with the Demons.

“We’ve got to think long and hard about what his best introduction into AFL footy is,” Scott said

“He’s done quite a bit of running volume through the pre-season, so we’ve got a level of confidence around his overall condition – it’s just match practise that he’s missed.

“And that’s even not taking into account he hasn’t played for the last two years.

“When he has done some match simulation-type work with us at training he’s looked really sharp.

“He didn’t play too badly tonight, so I think there is a school of thought we could bring him back quicker than most people might think. But that won’t be at the expense of the long term.

“That one’s a little bit more complicated, and I couldn’t say for sure right at the moment what the best thing is for him.”

Also impressing as the Cats saw off the Tigers by 67 points were speedster Jordan Murdoch (24 disposals and two goals) and youngster Jordan Cunico (26 and two), while George Horlin-Smith (23) produced another workmanlike performance.

Cory Gregson (18 possessions) bounced back quickly from an abdominal strain that forced him out of last week’s JLT Series loss to Essendon and Scott hasn’t ruled him out of playing against Melbourne.

“I feel like I’m giving the same answer for a lot of players,” Scott said. “But when you actually look through their preparation and the minutes they’ve done in match simulation or in training, almost to a man, they’re at a level you’d expect them to be able to cope with AFL footy.

“He’s certainly in that category. (He) would have played for us in Colac last week, bar a little issue he had, and looked really sharp tonight.

“He’s starting to look more like the player we had in his first year (2015).

“It’s a good reminder, when players a bit limited physically, it can be really tough, especially for small players.”

Meanwhile, Gary Ablett has completed a solid two-hour session at Deakin University on Friday, giving further hope he will make his first appearance in the Hoops in more than seven years next Sunday.

“It’s probably the first time in the last couple of weeks that he’s really let himself go and got good volume as well,” Scott said.

“Again, match practice at training is a fair way off AFL, but I think his standard preparation for AFL seasons is no practice matches and dominate Round 1.

“So hopefully that continues.”

Twitter: @tom_king79

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