No brain games, no deception, no train journeys during camp – a quick chat with Brad Fittler was enough.
Damien Cook has revealed that Fittler has gathered him and new rookie hooker Api Koroisau to clear the air as the first order of business in the camp for Origin II.
“Once we got to camp the next morning he grabbed Api and myself and was pretty clear about what we were doing,” Cook told Wide World of Sports.
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“We’re going to go with two hookers and Api would start, and that’s all that was really talked about.
“We’ve both just moved on with what we need to do this week and what our job will be to work together for whatever it takes to get the win.”
cook was moved to the bench to accommodate Penrith’s Api Koroisau in the base teamwith the Blues opting for a two hooker rotation in Perth.
“I was more than happy for Api – he played really good football and he just supported me while we were in camp,” Cook said.
“I love training next to him, he’s someone I look at as a whore and I love what he does too – I know he will go out and do a good job and it’s my turn to support when I can.
“He has great deception around the ruck. He plays with a lot of time and I have a feeling that he will manipulate the markers a lot and he will have combinations to start the game with Yo-ee (Isaah Yeo) and halve the as well.”
The addition of Koroisau means three quarters of the game’s position is now Panthers, along with James Tedesco.
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“Between that backbone, also with Teddy, I think we can get off to a really good start and hopefully when I come we’ll be in a good position, which I’m sure we will be,” Cook said.
There would always be changes after a disappointing loss in the Origin opener, but Cook remains optimistic.
“There’s been quite a bit of talk about how we just lost the ruck. We fought hard the whole game, we just ran out of time – who knows what could have happened with even an extra five seconds?” said Cook.
“So there are some good signs, but we need some improvements, and the big one is the ruck. They did really well and so people like Ben Hunt and Harry could have some fun with that.”
Both Andrew Johns and Paul Gallen backed Cook to play the ‘Craig Wing role’ for the Blues — a role he said he’d love to play.
“We have best-case scenarios [for when I come on] that we can work, but you never know how that game will go. There could be injuries in other positions, but hopefully not,” Cook said.
“For me when I come off the bench it just becomes really important to change the game, bring that energy to the big boys and make sure they get a good serve.”
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It’s worth nothing that he has a lot of experience from the bench – before he was Damien Cook, Origin and international hooker, he was the change of pace at the Rabbitohs behind the likes of Cameron McInnes and Robbie Farah. He eventually took out the No. 9 jersey in 2018.
“One thing you learn by getting off the bench in a few games is that you don’t want to overdo things and overplay your hand,” he said.
“You want to make sure you stay calm and still make the right decisions while making an impact.”
Cook made his Origin debut that same year in Brad Fittler’s first series as a coach, and along with Tedesco, he is the only man to have played on every Blues team since.
“It’s crazy to think I’ve played all those games under him, and I’m very grateful that he put that trust in me to be here – but you still pinch yourself every time you’re asked to come back here.” to come, no it doesn’t matter which number you wear.
“This is now the fifth season and it’s pretty special – I still don’t have a lot of time to look back and think about it.”
For any Origin-caliber player, health and fitness are paramount, and Cook revealed he has a secret weapon to keep him in top shape.
“Nutrition is very important to me – in camp you are very well looked after so at home I am lucky to have those My Muscle Chef meals you just pop them in the microwave for 90 seconds and you are good to go”, said Cook.
“But other than that, I need to prepare as best I can to come out on the other side of this Origin period and still play really good football.”
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