South Sydney star Damien Cook hits back at critics questioning his preliminary final form

Matt Logue NCA NewsWire
South Sydney must shut down Manly’s star fullback, Tom Trbojevic, to have any chance of winning Friday’s preliminary final against the Sea Eagles.
Camera IconSouth Sydney must shut down Manly’s star fullback, Tom Trbojevic, to have any chance of winning Friday’s preliminary final against the Sea Eagles. Credit: Supplied

South Sydney hooker Damien Cook has hit back at critics who suggest he has failed to perform in the Rabbitohs’ past three preliminary final losses.

As the Rabbitohs prepare for Friday night’s grand final qualifier against Manly, Cook jumped to his own defence concerning question marks over his finals form.

The star No. 9 has been criticised for failing to produce in the big moments during the Rabbitohs’ three consecutive preliminary final defeats to the Sydney Roosters, Canberra and Penrith.

Cook believes the critics are just looking for a scapegoat to blame for the Bunnies’ preliminary final failings.

“I think those past games is just people trying to find reasons why we lost,” Cook said.

“If they can find me a reason of what I actually did wrong, let me know.”

Cook insists he is perfectly prepared for Friday’s grand final qualifier against the in-form Sea Eagles following a week off.

He is also confident he and his Rabbitohs teammates have taken valuable lessons from their past three preliminary final losses.

“I think so; I’d like to think I’ve learnt from them,” he said.

“I definitely feel pretty relaxed going into this one. I’m confident with where the team is at and I’m feeling nice and fresh.

“The body is feeling good.

“I think the rest has been great. It has been a long season for us all and we’ve had some representative football in the middle as well.

“We are in a great position this year where we earned the right to get that week off before the prelim, which we haven’t been able to do in the past couple of years.

“Hopefully everyone has made the most of it. We’ve been keeping the standards at training high, so most of the hard work is done now.”

Meanwhile, suspended South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell has been impersonating Manly star Tom Trbojevic to help his team‘s preliminary final cause.

As Souths aim to emulate Melbourne and shut down Trbojevic in Friday’s grand final qualifier, the Rabbitohs revealed Mitchell’s vital role in Souths taming “Turbo”.

The former premiership-winning Rooster has been running lines as a bigger body at training, like Trbojevic does, to help his teammates prepare for the challenge of containing the NRL’s most potent player.

According to Cook, Mitchell’s work at training has been invaluable heading into the blockbuster clash against the Sea Eagles.

“We’ve got a young fullback here who isn’t too bad and has got a bit of free time on his hands in Latrell,” Cook joked.

“He has been quite a handful at training, but that is what we wanted.

“We know what kind of shapes Manly play, so where we can mimic those plays is what we try and do at training.

“That is when the other players in the squad become so important. The standard they set for us at training, and the likes of Latrell really testing us, are going to make us better on the weekend.”

South Sydney must shut down Manly’s star fullback, Tom Trbojevic, to have any chance of winning Friday’s preliminary final against the Sea Eagles.
Camera IconSouth Sydney must shut down Manly’s star fullback, Tom Trbojevic, to have any chance of winning Friday’s preliminary final against the Sea Eagles. Credit: Supplied

Cook concedes the Rabbitohs can’t stop Trbojevic, but they must find a way to restrict his effectiveness.

“You can’t stop the great players – you just have to try and limit what they do,” he said.

“We saw Melbourne do that (with Turbo) a few weeks ago, even though Manly were a little bit off their game.

“You can watch other teams and try and learn from what they’ve done.

“He (Tommy) is a freakish player, and he is one of the red-hot favourites for the (Dally M), too.”

Rabbitohs veteran Benji Marshall also praised Mitchell for his impact at training.

“Latrell has been around, and he has been in the second team at training and putting plays on and acting like the opposition,” Marshall said.

“He has also been a really good mentor.”

Originally published as South Sydney star Damien Cook hits back at critics questioning his preliminary final form

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