Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook says he's happy to hear his name mentioned as a bolter for this year's State of Origin series but admits he has a long way to go before he can be considered for his NSW Blues debut.
The 25-year-old has done his representative chances no harm with a series of electrifying performances off the bench for the Bunnies, and it's his speed and energy that has come calling for him to be rushed into the Blues squad.
While Cook believes Origin speculation is premature, he wasn't afraid to throw his hat in the ring for next month's City v Country clash in Mudgee.
"I think it's a bit too soon to be talking about that," Cook said on Monday morning.
"I've just had my first start for the year in the team. Those things will come from playing good footy at club level. Hopefully I can keep playing good footy and we can get a few wins back on the board.
"It is always nice [to be included in Origin talk] because it's obviously a goal for everyone to do.
"If we're going to talk representative [footy], I was lucky enough to be 18th man for Country, and it's the last time they're playing City v Country this year. It was always a game I enjoyed watching growing up so that's the goal to play that one first, and then we can look at Origin stuff.
"I think you've got to prove yourself there before you can talk about Origin. We'll see what happens. Hopefully I can play some good footy and be in the mix."
If Cook were to make the NSW Blues side, he'd have to unseat Rabbitohs teammate Robbie Farah for the prized No.9 jersey which is exactly what happened last Friday night when he earned his first start of the season against the Cowboys.
Farah was relegated to the bench and lasted just seven minutes before he was forced off with a back complaint, allowing Cook to shine with 53 tackles and 61 metres in a solid 80-minute showing.
Cook described his relationship with Farah as a "healthy competitive environment" and thanked the veteran rake for helping him take his game to new heights in 2017.
"It was just unfortunate that Robbie got injured and we weren't able to see the full effect of [our combination] on the field at the same time," Cook said.
"He's very helpful with everything I do. He's always helping me at training and when we train we're right next to each other and we're always talking and helping each other out.
"When I got told I was starting during the week, he was the first one to come say 'well done' to me. He spoke to me all through the week about the game plan and how to start the game. I'm very lucky to have him this week."
It remains unclear whether Farah will be fit enough to take on the Panthers on Friday night, but if he is ruled out, Cook is relishing the opportunity to go head-to-head with another Origin hopeful in Peter Wallace.
"He's made a good [switch] going from half to hooker," Cook said. "Especially with those young halves out there, he's doing a really good job in controlling the team and leading them around."
This article first appeared on NRL.com