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Cook: Origin's big stage is where Latrell belongs

For all the conjecture about Latrell Mitchell's return to Origin, his club and state teammate Damien Cook put it into perspective by  declaring: "This is where he belongs."

Mitchell will make his first appearance in a Blues jersey since he was dropped in controversial circumstances after the 2019 series opener, named alongside Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic in the centres for Wednesday night’s match in Townsville.

The superstar Rabbitohs fullback has been reluctant to speak to the media about his recall in the lead-up to the match but Cook said he deserved his spot and it was up to the Blues forwards to ensure the likes of Mitchell, Trbojevic and captain James Tedesco to shine.

"It is great to see Latrell back," Cook said. "This is where he belongs. He is an Origin player.

"He is one of the best players in our game so this is where he needs to be, and it is good to see him back in the jersey.

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"With the likes of Latrell, Tedesco and Trbojevic, you just needed to find a spot to fit them all in and that is what Freddy has done.

"I told Turbo that it has been good fun watching him this year. He has been playing some outstanding footy and the way that Manly has gone to another level since he has been back as well.

"We know what to expect from Teddy and that is why we set the bar so high for him now, because he is just an outstanding player. To have all three of them in the squad just gives you a lot of confidence."

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Cook and Mitchell are among eight Souths players in the rival Origin camps, including centre Campbell Graham and second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi, who are the respective 19th and 20th man for the Blues.

The club with the next highest representation is Penrith, who have seven players in the NSW and Queensland squads, including Blues 18th man Api Koroisau.

The Panthers hooker was under consideration to replace Cook but a strong performance in the Rabbitohs' 38-20 demolition of Parramatta the day before the NSW team was announced secured his spot.

"I think I needed that game," Cook conceded. "It had been a tough couple of weeks at Souths. We had won some games but also lost some as well.

"To come up against a top-four team like Parramatta, I was pretty happy with how the team played and individually I thought I had a good game too. I think it is important to have that going into an Origin series."

After scoring the opening try in the Indigenous Round defeat of the Eels, Cook paid tribute to Mitchell by performing his Kangaroo ears try celebration.  

Cook sneaks over from the scrum

"It is a very special round for us and we want to go out there and do a good job for those guys. I told Latrell if I ever scored a try in Indigenous round I was going to do it. That was ages ago and I finally did it," Cook said.

"Latrell was pretty happy that I did it, he was pretty pumped. It’s a very special round for our club.

"We have got a strong Indigenous community, a strong Indigenous following and a number of Indigenous players in our squad so it was important that we went out and performed for them."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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