‘He’s better than ever’: Why Souths are tipping Cook to win back Blues spot

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Damien Cook is the most in-form hooker in NSW – and Australia – right now.

That is the opinion of South Sydney skipper Cameron Murray as Cook goes head-to-head with Api Koroisau, the man who took his NSW No. 9 jersey for games two and three in last year’s Origin series.

Cook has avoided questions all year about whether he wants to win back the starting role for the Blues. What will help his cause is the fact Souths are flying and Koroisau has been trying to inspire the struggling Wests Tigers.

“You don’t own the jersey, you only rent it for the time you’re there, and you need to try and get reselected every year,” Cook said about his NSW aspirations.

Murray, however, was backing his teammate to be there for the early exchanges against Queensland at the end of the month.

“He’s proven to everyone he still has what it takes to play at the highest level and be the best hooker, if not nationally then at least in this state,” Murray said.

Will Damien Cook reclaim his NSW No. 9 jersey?Credit: Getty

“He handled everything at the back end of last year really well, he didn’t get into the World Cup squad, but he made the most of his break.

“Just his decision-making out of hooker has been really good, he’s connecting really well with his middles and halves, and he’s backing his running game a lot – there were patches where he was second-guessing himself, but he’s now backing himself.”

The Blues are likely to pick Cook and Koroisau, just as Queensland are happy to go with a double-pronged dummy-half attack with Harry Grant and Ben Hunt.

Cook is good friends with Koroisau, who has been the standout in a Tigers team chasing a hat-trick of wins, for the first time since 2018, on Saturday at Accor Stadium.

Blues dummy-half incumbent Api Koroisau has been rock solid for the Wests Tigers.

Cook, 31, said he learnt long ago that if he took care of club form, representative honours would follow.

Jai Arrow, South Sydney’s resident Queensland Origin representative, said of Cook’s form: “He’s done all the right things leading up to this point, he’s picking his times when to run very well and putting us big boys on the front foot.

“Cooky has just played his role and done it really well. He hasn’t scored the magnificent tries people have seen in the past, but he’s probably playing his role better than he ever has.”

Souths have won five on the bounce, and mixed up training with a game of AFL and soccer on Tuesday.

Murray nursed six stitches above his left eye and sat out training as he allowed his ribs to recover from a late brutal hit in the win over Melbourne in Magic Round.

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