Wayne Bennett says hooker Damien Cook has unique skills as a hooker and outlined how the Rabbitohs star had added an extra dimension to his game that inspired the 22-20 win over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
Cook’s running game was on song and he scored a cracking try in the second half on the back of his support play but it was the two try assists and creativity of his play that most impressed Bennett.
“He is unique in his skill set. I don’t think any of them can do the things he can but he is still a work in progress,” Bennett said.
“Take away his running game, I thought his work around the ball was very good because he brought other players into the game which he hasn’t always done.
“That is his great strength. If he can bring the other players into the game it will give him more opportunities. He got his middles engaged and he got the opportunities from the work they were doing.”
Cook said Bennett had been constantly in his ear about taking the next step in his game.
“I’ve been working really closely with Wayne about how to improve my game – how to win a ruck off a slow play-the-ball or put my front-rowers in a better position when it is not my turn to run.
“That is what he has been most hard on me about and I thought today was a good step forward.”
Bennett hailed Cook’s “great tackle” in the 79th minute which cut down Corey Oates centimetres from the line when the flying Broncos winger seemed certain to score the match-winner. It was a tackle Cook said he just had to make.
“We were under the pump and they were flying and coming back at us at the end of the game. I just had to put myself in position to make that tackle,” Cook said.
“[Oates] is a big body and such a danger to play against. I just went in there and hoped for the best and tried to make the tackle. I am glad that I did because I felt like our team really deserved to win tonight.”
The Rabbitohs had to defend their line at the death after Dane Gagai had the ball stripped on the first tackle with 90 second to go. It was the way Souths responded that most impressed Bennett.
“The game will throw lots of things at you. You don’t know when they will come,” he said.
“You just want your players to be resilient enough and strong enough mentally to be able to handle it and we did that tonight. We hadn’t been so good in that area lately but we were really good tonight.
“Gagai had the ball stripped off him with a minute and 30 [seconds] to go and that is the last thing you want when it is first tackle. That gave them another opportunity but we took it and made it work.
“We turned up and showed what we can do, which we haven’t been doing so well the last six weeks or so. It was a good time to do it, three weeks out from the play-offs.”
Bennett said the game had been worthy of the fiery and controversial build-up during the week.
“Everybody bought into it. Everybody wanted to watch it. There were a lot of people here tonight and that is what football is all about,” he said.
“I always love coming to Brisbane and coming to Suncorp. I’ve never lost my love of those things. I have always had a great rapport with the Broncos fans. There was great theatre about the week and that is what makes it the game it is.”