In-form Cook only just starting to hit his stride
Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook says it took him a few weeks to adjust to the huge increase in his workload this year but, after yet another dominant display, is starting to feel comfortable as an 80-minute hooker.
With each passing week, the former Dragon and Bulldog also seemingly draws closer to a NSW Origin jersey; those claims took a massive step up over the past week with new coach Brad Fittler stating he is open to the possibility of selecting two No.9s with a player such as Cook serving as a utility.
Speaking after his side's dominant 42-22 win over the Raiders in Gosford on Saturday, Cook praised the influence of his in-form pack – and particular Sam, Tom and George Burgess – in continuing to provide him with quick play-the-balls from which to showcase his impressive speed and continue to state his Origin claims.
"Our attack was a lot better than what it has been the last couple of weeks," Cook said, despite being unhappy with the Rabbitohs leaking four tries.
"[The Burgess brothers] are doing a really good job and it's good to see that what they're doing at training they're taking into the game as well.
"They're big bodies, they're in great shape, they're over their past injuries in the past couple of years and really playing some good footy so I'm just happy for them. And obviously them playing well allows me to come into the game."
Cook's 36 tackles against Canberra was a season-low - a result of his teams' scoring dominance reducing their defensive requirements - but in return he bagged his first two try assists of the season and ran for more than 100 metres with two tackle busts.
"It's been working well at training and on the field at times as well," he said.
"[However] when we're in good ball attacking the line and when we are making some good metres and playing off quick play-the-balls we probably get a bit frantic and we need to really just stick to what we've been practising at training and those plays will work."
The Origin chat has been following Cook around for some time now but he doesn't shy away from it.
"Hopefully that (being talked about for Origin) is coming off the back of playing good footy and being consistent week in week out which is something I'm really working on," he said.
"It's great to be mentioned in that arena and like I've said in the past if those things come along and I'm playing good footy I'd love the opportunity and I'd take it as well but there's some other good hookers as well.
"All I can do is keep trying to play consistent footy here and getting some wins and hopefully those things take care of themselves."
Match: Rabbitohs vs Raiders
Venue: Central Coast Stadium
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Cook's famous speed could certainly provide him with a point of difference if called up; he said maintaining that despite going from mostly bench stints last year to 80 minutes this year averaging 43 tackles per game had taken some work.
"Being able to do a sprint effort then do it again is a big part of the game. I'd like to think I've worked on it hard and hopefully it's showing in the games," he said.
"[Increasing defence] is something I'm really working on, just game fitness as well. The first three weeks were tough for myself and I guess everyone.
"No matter what you do in pre-season there's nothing like game fitness and since the third week I feel like I'm getting the game fitness up there and getting through the 80 comfortably and I've got a big pack around me that are helping me out in D as well so it's all a team effort."