By Luke Voogt
Future Geelong Cats star Nakia Cockatoo has departed the club’s Gold Coast hub, returning home for wrist surgery and for the birth of his first child.
Geelong Cats football general manager Simon Lloyd announced the long-anticipated return on Monday after Cockatoo, 23, suffered a wrist injury in practice match in Queensland weeks ago.
“Nakia was able to play through his wrist issue for a number of weeks,” Lloyd said.
“But we made the decision last week to prioritise what is best for him long-term, which meant sending him home to Victoria for surgery.
“Nakia will have surgery later this week in Melbourne and begin a rehab program immediately, as he looks towards 2021.
“Nakia and his partner Grace are awaiting the arrival of their first child as well, and we wish them all the best in this exciting time of their lives.”
Cockatoo has played 34 AFL games with Geelong since being drafted at the end of 2014.
About a fortnight ago Cats coach Chris Scott indicated Cockatoo would likely return to Victoria while acknowledging the young forward-midfielder was an exciting prospect.
“You don’t need to watch him for too long to see the signs of the player he could be,” Scott said.
“I can’t wait to see him in the hoops for the next seven or eight years because I think he’s going to be a very, very good player.”
But while Cockatoo’s silky skills and flare have impressed, he has had an injury-plagued run since his debut in 2015.
“He has just had such a difficult time over the last few years that reintroducing him prematurely, we think that would be a mistake,” Scott said.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that his partner’s pregnant. [That] would be an extra challenge managing footy in a normal situation, but [COVID-19] just makes it that much more difficult.
“We couldn’t be clearer at our club, footy is one of the most important things you’ll ever do in your life, but it’s not the most important thing.”