Nakia Cockatoo (Southern Districts/NT Thunder)
Height: 188 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Strengths: Acceleration, athleticism, damage
Areas of improvement: Consistency
Player comparison: Patrick Dangerfield
The best prospect to come out of the Northern Territory this year, Nakia Cockatoo is an interesting utility who’s had his season destroyed by injuries. Missing the championships, Cockatoo hasn’t had much opportunity to prove his worth however his rare combination of height, strength and athleticism has allowed him to remain on many draft watchers’ radars. A very strong performance in the young guns’ game – a curtain raiser to the Grand Final – resulted in Nakia winning the medal for best on ground.
A big bodied utility, Cockatoo excels across the ground. With his height he’s often been used in a key defensive or third tall role in the Northern Territory, as at 188 cm he’s one of the taller juniors in the Territory. In that role he’s performed admirably, using his acceleration and speed to close down leads and his size to maintain a physical presence.
Offensively he’s able to use his abilities to provide a rebounding and running option. He has particularly excelled when playing small in defence, with his unique mix of abilities allowing him to cover and beat most opponents.
Through the midfield Cockatoo has a nice balance between inside and outside game. Possessing elite acceleration and a fantastic top speed, if Cockatoo decides to attempt to win a ground ball, he’s hard to stop as he just gets there first.
The speed at which he hits a ball coupled with his imposing body allows him a real ability to win his own ball. Upon winning a ground ball Cockatoo’s breakaway speed is elite. He’s almost always able to burst clear of a contest or create space to dispose of the ball.
By foot Cockatoo is reliable, with his kicks often furthering the play and hitting targets. However he rarely penetrates and really breaks open the game by foot. Cockatoo is also capable of working into space and providing a marking presence. When forward Cockatoo has shown some ability as a lead up forward, with his pace allowing him some separation.
The knock on Cockatoo is that he hasn’t played a full season. It’s often hard to judge a player based on their underage year, especially when that underage year is in the Northern Territory. He spent a week with North Melbourne earlier in the year as part of the AIS-AFL Academy and from all reports they were impressed with his skills and attitude.
While by foot Cockatoo is reliable, he is prone to occasionally blindly long bombing instead of lowering the head. When under pressure Cockatoo occasionally shows a lack of composure as well. With ball in hand he is prone to blazing away without thinking about the situation and as such leaves himself prone to being run down. He just tries to do too much some times – one evasive move too many or one run too many. It’s something which can be ironed out at AFL level though.
The worry with how Cockatoo will translate to AFL level is in the role he’ll play. At the moment he’s a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. While he is able to win his own ball, he doesn’t do it with enough regularity and consistency to be a genuine inside option yet.
On the outside he’s not a damaging enough kick or consistent enough accumulator to be a genuine outside option either and in defence some of the issues that affected James Gwilt are also likely to effect Cockatoo, with him being just a little too small to play the role he’s suited to.
If Nakia is to make it, he’s likely going to have to improve his inside game to a level where he can command a place on that alone or improve his foot skills so he’d be a genuine and damaging outside option for a side.
Cockatoo is someone who could impact in season one with his matured body and versatility however it will not be until season two or three when he really begins to impose himself.
There are several players he shares some similarities with – his ability to burst out of a contest and accelerate so rapidly is not dissimilar to Patrick Dangerfield, and he shares a similar type of body and tendency to blindly kick with him too. The way in which he influences games is not dissimilar to Dangerfield as well.
When in defence he’s similar to Shaun Atley in a few ways with his disciplined defending but genuine running ability similar. He also shares a few similarities with Daniel Wells but really, Cockatoo is a bit unique with the way he plays – it’s rare to have a player with his athleticism and size. His performance in the grand final curtain raiser was impressive enough to see his draft stocks rocket.