Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook has a point to prove in Friday night's preliminary final against Manly, but not to those who have criticised his past performances in grand final qualifiers.
Cook's efforts in the Rabbitohs' past three preliminary finals - against Penrith in 2020, Canberra in 2019 and the Roosters in 2018 - have come under the spotlight but the Blues hooker won't be using it as extra motivation.
"I think in past games that's just people finding a reason why we lost," Cook said.
"If they can find me a reason with what I actually did wrong then let me know.
"I'd like to think I've learned from them. I definitely feel pretty relaxed going into this one, definitely confident with where the team is at."
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Cook said he had benefitted from playing just twice in the past month after a gruelling season that included his involvement in the Blues' successful State of Origin campaign.
Whether the week off can be the difference for the Rabbitohs in their march to this year's grand final remains to be seen but Cook says it's a far better option than having to play every week in September.
"A big goal of ours was to be a top-four side and win that first game because we've had to do it the long way around the last couple of years and it hasn't worked," Cook said.
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"Looking at past years we can only learn from that experience. Sometimes it's probably best to not make the finals at all, that's how much it hurts [to exit].
"Wayne talks about the deeper you go in the harder it hurts to miss out.
"We're in a great position where we were able to rest players in the final round and put all the effort into the first final which we knew would be against Penrith."
Whatever the outcome of the Bunnies' fourth consecutive preliminary final, Cook denied suggestions the club's premiership window could close if they can't secure the title.
South Sydney will farewell coach Wayne Bennett, captain Adam Reynolds, Dane Gagai, Jaydn Su'A and possibly Benji Marshall at season's end.
"I'm not worried about what's happening in the future and definitely won't be saying the window is closing any time because we go out every year trying to win a premiership," Cook said.
"But nothing is guaranteed for next year so let's take full advantage of the situation we're in right now."
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