Nakia Cockatoo will make his highly anticipated return to AFL action against Hawthorn at UTAS Stadium on Sunday.

The 24-year-old will end a 1212 day absence from the big time when he make his Lions senior debut after coach Chris Fagan made one change to the side that overcame a slow start to romp to a 49 point victory over the Gold Coast in QClash 21.

Second year midfielder Deven Robertson has been omitted.

The match will also be the first time that Grant Birchall will play against his former club the Hawks, and he will be doing at in hos home state of Tasmania.

Cockatoo joined the Lions at the end of last season after an injury plagued stint at Geelong where he managed just 35 games in six seasons.

The former top ten draft pick last played at AFL level against West Coast on April 8, 2018.

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Nakia Joins The Starting Line Up

Nakia Cockatoo will make his debut with the Lions.

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The explosive utility has bene banging on the door for selection for the past three weeks and was the injury substitution for the derby win over the Suns at the Gabba.

He was not called upon in that game but returned to the VFL the following day where he was once again among the Lions best players in a tough clash with the Giants.

Lions GM of Football Danny Daly said Cockatoo’s selection had provided a boost for the entire football club.

“It’s a popular call this one because Nakia has worked so hard to get to this point,’’ he said.

“He’s been out of the game for a long time and we certainly aren’t placing any extra expectation on him.

“We just want him to come in and do what he’s been doing at the VFL level.’’