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Souths players go through their paces at Redfern Oval.

Damien Cook knows how irritable and out-of-sorts he feels when his routine is disrupted so he has great empathy for someone like Rabbitohs teammate James Roberts finding the COVID-19 isolation difficult.

Roberts has returned to a specialist facility to help his health and well-being as he navigates the pandemic's consequences to his life.

"It is hard. We're used to seeing each other, day in and day out," Cook said after a Rabbitohs field session on Wednesday.

"Also we're used to being told what we're doing and when with our schedule – at training, out on the field, when we're eating lunch, when we're in the gym.

"There's a lot of structure in everyone's lives and that's all been taken away from him.

Cook proud of James Roberts

"You miss your camaraderie around the sheds and at training. That's why we're enjoying it so much being back.

"For me personally as well, I like to stay busy as I'd lose my mind sitting around doing nothing," the NSW Origin and Test hooker said.

"I set my own schedule giving myself training days and when I'd do my weights and running sessions. I was lucky enough to do that but some guys out there really struggled and obviously James is one.

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"But there's a lot out there in the NRL and probably in the wide public as well."

Cook said coach Wayne Bennett had briefed the squad about Roberts's situation.

"Wayne's had a lot to do with James, up in Brisbane and down here. He just let us know what was going on and obviously James has our full support as a team.

"That's where we left it. We'll give him and his family the space they need," Cook said, adding that no-one at the Rabbitohs had the May 28 play resumption on their minds when it came to their starting centre.

"I'm very proud of James and what he's done. He realised the situation he was in and he's reached out for help.

"I'm not too worried about James Roberts the football player at the moment. He can take as much time as he needs. Once he comes back he will be welcome with open arms.

"He's a big part of this side so we'll be happy for whenever he's ready to come back."

Souths forward Junior Tatola echoed the same sense of pride in Roberts taking action but wanted everyone to respect his privacy.

"All I can say is that I wish him the best. I can't wait to see him back and can't wait to play with him again," Tatola said.

"I can't really comment but good on him for doing what he had to do."

Another Rabbitoh who has been under the spotlight this year is Latrell Mitchell and Cook said the Test representative had been training at fullback at each of the team's sessions, reminding fans he was not a one-man-band when it came to South Sydney’s fortunes.

Latrell Mitchell practises kicking at Souths training on Wednesday.
Latrell Mitchell practises kicking at Souths training on Wednesday. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"Wayne will make those decisions but from what I’ve seen this week Latrell has been doing all the stuff at fullback. So that’s where he’ll be and I believe he will be a great fullback for us," Cook said.

He said the whole team took responsibility in not allowing Mitchell the chance to show his wares in that position during the Rabbitohs' 1-1 start to 2020.

"The first two rounds we didn’t play our best footy. We didn’t play our structure and didn’t get much go-forward to play off the back of. We weren’t able to bring Latrell into the game," Cook said.

 

Help is available 24/7 for anyone who has mental health issues by calling Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

For further information on the NRL State of Mind program, click here