Northern Knights co-captain Nik Cox spent a lot of his COVID-19 lockdown in the gym.
A highly-rated prospect heading into this week’s AFL national and rookie drafts, Cox knew that there were a couple of areas that he could work on while he couldn’t take to the field.
He said lockdown was a good time to try and address them and it appears to have paid off – Cox has increased his strength and put on eight kilograms.
“I’ve never done a sustained period of gym work in my life,” he said.
“I’ve always been more of a runner and was always scared that if I did get really heavy, I would lose my running ability, which is a major strength of my footy.
“I’ve come to the realisation that you need to do gym to get stronger and get more power and it helps your running.
“I noticed towards the back end of last year I was getting nudged out of some contests way too easily. If I can’t compete with boys my age, I’m not going to be able to compete with 26-year-old stars in the AFL, I needed to put on some weight and size so I’m able to compete with those people.”
As well as doing weights sessions every week, Cox continued to hit the track, running three times a week.
He also tried to improve his ball handling skills.
“It’s obviously pretty hard as the thing that gets you the skills is the organised training,” he said.
“But I’m lucky enough I’ve got some close mates that live close by to not lose that touch.
“I’ve done some kicking and some craft stuff before my running sessions and doing ground ball work and getting footy’s fired at me, so the hands are still used to getting the balls smacked at me.
“It was a key thing to maintain my skills, as it’s one of my strengths as well and I didn’t want to lose that as one of my weapons.”
After a 2019 which saw him represent Australia, play for Vic Metro as a bottom-ager and an appearance in the young guns game on the MCG, Cox was set for a big 2020.
He knows he was lucky to get those opportunities which put him on AFL club’s radar, especially with no football this year.
If early signs were to go by, Cox was set for an even bigger year this year before COVID-19 hit
“It was a bit strange going through all the rigours of the pre-season and everything [and] not getting to play,” he said.
“I got named as one of the co-captains for the Knights too. It is such an honour being named captain of the Knights and something that I wanted.
“I wanted to have some success there. I felt like an obligation to bring some success to the club, which is a bit frustrating.
“I also had some great experiences with the Vic Metro squad. We still got a couple of camps which was good. We had a pretty good squad too, I think we would have gone pretty well too, that’s how it goes I guess.”
Known for his ability to play a number of different positions, Cox was set to settle into playing centre half-back.
That’s where he believes he plays his best football.
“I think centre half-back or half-back flank in an interceptor role down back, that’s where I feel most comfortable and can be most damaging in that position,” he said.
“I’ve watched a lot of Darcy Moore. I think he is a pretty similar player, over 200cm and really athletic, really co-ordinated, uses the ball well and makes good decisions.
“He just plays that role down back where he can lock down, but can also peel off, set up really well for the players in front of him.”
Having spoken to nearly every club in the lead-up to the draft, Cox said the reality that his life-long dream of becoming an AFL player could come true is starting to feel real.
“I was saying to dad the other day, I was driving home from an interview and it just sort of sunk in, and wow, that this is sort of going to happen now, came to the realisation it’s pretty exciting.”