A season-ending injury to first-choice rake Michael Lichaa was supposed to bring Canterbury’s NRL finals tilt to a halt, but back-up choice Damien Cook has literally sped them up.
Cook came up big in Lichaa’s absence against South Sydney, providing the highlight of the match with his miracle tapback from well over the deadball line for Sam Perrett to score on the stroke of halftime.
Bulldogs teammate Brett Morris was Cook’s weights partner at St George-Illawarra in 2013, but it wasn’t his power game that made the Helensburgh junior stand out.
“If you know Damien well, you know how fast he actually is,” Morris said.
“If you watch that play over, you see he covers a lot of ground pretty quickly.”
Asked if Cook matched him for pace, the noted speedster said: “He’s just as quick, certainly.”
Morris revealed the Bulldogs’ latest hero used to be a distinguished beach sprinter in his teenage years, before focusing on rugby league.
“I don’t think there’s too much money in beach sprinting, so he converted to rugby league.”
Perrett said the team always knew of Cook’s ability to deliver on the big stage, but Friday’s coming-out party re-affirmed their confidence to back him.
“For your teammates to see that, it’s really confidence boosting for the whole team,” he said.
“Everyone knows now that if Cooky’s going to be there, he’s going to do an amazing job for us.”
The Rabbitohs match was just Cook’s fifth appearance in the NRL since making his debut with the Dragons in 2013.
However, after proving his worth against the defending premiers, Cook will not only be relied on in the club’s premiership charge, he also stands on the verge of his biggest contract in first grade.
“My contract finishes up (this year),” Cook said after the match.
“But the Dogs, they’ve spoken to me.
“Des (Hasler) obviously wants to keep me around, which is good. Hopefully this just helps the matter.”