Rabbitohs sign Bulldogs hooker Cook

South Sydney are expected to this week announce they have signed Canterbury hooker Damien Cook for the 2016 NRL season.

It is understood the Bulldogs’ back-up No.9 has signed with the Rabbitohs with an announcement scheduled for Thursday.

Cook’s management has told the Bulldogs he will be at Redfern next year because he has been offered greater opportunities by Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire.

The Bulldogs wanted to keep the off-contract 24-year-old however could not guarantee him game time with Michael Lichaa ahead of him as the preferred hooker.

Cook was one of the revelations of 2015, making a name for himself in five appearances after an ankle injury ended Lichaa’s season.

He showed his class in his first call-up of the season against the Rabbitohs in round 24, scoring the first four-pointer and producing a miracle try-assist when he dived over the deadball line to bat the ball back for Sam Perrett.

He also proved capable of big minutes, averaging 43.8 tackles per match, the most of any player in the competition, according to Fox Sports Stats.

Cook’s signing would rule out the Rabbitohs making a play for out-of-favour Wests Tigers skipper Robbie Farah.

The NSW State of Origin hooker has been told by the club’s management he is free to explore opportunities elsewhere and was linked to a move to Souths where his brother Eddie is the club physiotherapist.

After losing New Zealand Test No.9 Issac Luke to the Warriors, the Rabbitohs looked set to rely on the highly-rated Cameron McInnes next year.

However Cook’s arrival will ensure there is fierce competition for the starting hooking spot and provide coach Michael Maguire with a selection headache in the lead-up to round one.

Earlier in his career, Cook played as a fullback and winger but has evolved into a robust No.9 with explosive pace out of dummy half.

He made his NRL debut with St George Illawarra, making two appearances in 2013 before shifting to Belmore where he played seven first-grade matches during 2014-15.

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