It was a tail of two stories for Eric Hipwood and Nakia Cockatoo, as one returned after 1211 days away from footy, while the other was ruled out for the year with an ACL injury.
For Hipwood, the arrival of Joe Daniher seemed to be a godsend as the Lions forward six quickly developed cohesion as they became the most lethal forward line in the competition.
No longer the main target inside 50, Hipwood seemed to relish the added freedom as he roamed up the ground, showing off his impressive athleticism and field kicking.
Clunking 79 marks in 17 games, Lions fans were reminded of the 203cm forward’s impressive aerial ability as he continually launched courageously into contests, including a hanger against North in the sleeting cold of Tasmania.
Having found more of the ball and improving on his goal accuracy in 2021, Hipwood’s ACL injury in Round 17 couldn’t have come at a crueller time.
The 23-year-old will miss the majority of the 2022 season but will look to return to light running duties in January.
It was better news for Geelong recruit Nakia Cockatoo, who returned to AFL football after 1211 days on the sideline through injury.
Having played his last game in Round 3 of 2018, Cockatoo made his Lions debut in Round 20 v Hawthorn, finishing with 8 disposals and kicking a memorable snap goal, much to the delight of his teammates.
In an emotional guernsey presentation, Nakia was grateful for the patience of Brisbane’s medical staff and admitting to the team there were times when he considered “giving the game away.”
Played as a pressure forward, ‘Cocky’ as he’s affectionately known around the club impressed with his powerful tackling and second efforts around the ball.
A player with plenty of upside and X Factor about him, Cockatoo will be looking to bring plenty of spark into his 2022 campaign.
Hippy Bags Four
It was a Friday night test for the ages as the Lions came up against the reigning Premiers in a heated battle at the Gabba in Round 10.
With Jack Riewoldt kicking three first-quarter goals, the Tigers led by 19 points and the Lions needed to find some scoreboard reward for their control in the midfield.
Enter Eric Hipwood, who clunked 7 marks and booted 4 goals in a dynamic performance while collecting a handy 13 disposals in the process.
Cockatoo Goes Bang
The Lions venture west to Perth was full of unknowns.
With Lachie Neale still injured and Jack Payne a late out, Fremantle at Optus Stadium became a daunting task.
But it was Nakia Cockatoo’s impact around the ground that gave Lions faithful insight into the 24-year-olds power.
After the ball hit the deck on the Fremantle 50m arc, Cockatoo fumbled under pressure before recovering to provide a second, third and fourth tackling effort that eventuated in a Fremantle turnover.
While Nakia would walk away with just 8 disposals, it was his 6 tackles and 2 goals that did the talking.