STATE OF ORIGIN
Cook Races into Origin Contention
If Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues fans hadn't already considered Damien Cook for their hypothetical Origin line-ups, they have now.
As the South Sydney Rabbitohs notched up their 113th win over arch rivals the Sydney Roosters, it was the dummy-half who shone the most - and it's not the first time he's done so in 2018. Not including Cook's 127-metre, 45-tackle effort in the Round 6 clash, the former Bulldog has regularly provided an attacking spark throughout the season so far.
Perhaps the greatest sign of Cook's dominance has been the confidence shown by coach Anthony Seibold, who also has at his disposal an in-form 16-time Origin hooker in Robbie Farah. Cook's efforts, Seibold said after Thursday's win, have so far kept Farah plying his trade in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
"Cookie was great, I thought he was pretty good last week as well," Seibold said. "I just had a feeling that he’s ready to be an 80-minute player and he’s progressed through really well.
"He knows that he’s got to continue to work hard - we’ve got Robbie Farah sitting there as well. Robbie Farah’s been outstanding in the two (Intrust Super Premiership) games he’s played, so it’s not as if 'Faz' is not training good or not playing well."
With the Holden State of Origin Series now less than eight weeks away and fans' teams beginning to form, the sight of Cook in open space did not go unnoticed on Twitter.
Cook, who played fullback during much of his development, typifies the role of a running hooker, with speed clearly his greatest asset. Prior to Round 6, the Helensburgh Tigers junior led the NRL's hookers in dummy-half runs (36) and total running metres (545), while defensively, his tally of 219 tackles was the fourth-highest in the NRL. A tackle efficiency rate of 87.7%, however, falls just short of the 90% mark which 10 other hookers surpass.
Three other former Rabbitohs sit firmly in the frame for Origin selection in 2018; Titans rake Nathan Peats is the incumbent, while the Sea Eagles' Api Koroisau and the Dragons' Cameron McInnes have both been in good form. Speaking on Channel 9's NRL Footy Show, NSW True Blue Andrew Johns believed there was room for Cook, with two dummy-halves fitting into Brad Fittler's side.
"I think he (Cook) is a chance off the bench," Johns said. "I think at the moment Koroisau, and McInnes from the Dragons, they’re right up there.
"Back when NSW were playing their best, they had (Danny) Buderus and then they had (Craig) Wing coming off the bench... just as a pure runner. Damien Cook coming off the bench after 30 minutes playing Origin would terrorise the opposition."
While not eligible for State of Origin, another former Rabbitoh and one of Cook's NRL opponents is Issac Luke, who sits second to the 26-year-old in run metres this year. Luke's reaction to Cook's dominant first half may just say it all.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and are not reflective of the NSWRL or State of Origin selection process.