Hear me out here. I will begin with an admission that in my time watching the NRL (14 years), I have never seen a player come from relative obscurity to become the Origin and Kangaroos star we see today like Damien Cook.
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It took just a day after his official arrival at South Sydney for Wayne Bennett to prove he still has his Midas touch.
Bennett has secured his first win at the Rabbitohs after Test hooker Damien Cook agreed to stay at Redfern until the end of the 2023 NRL season.
Already under contract for 2019, Cook, 27, has re-signed for another four seasons in a deal reportedly worth $4.5 million.
Bennett said re-signing Cook was a priority when he started his three-year Redfern stint on Tuesday amid speculation the livewire rake may follow ex-Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold to Brisbane.
And Bennett didn’t waste time getting his man, with South Sydney securing Cook on a long-term deal believed to include an upgraded 2019 contract barely 24 hours later.
“I’m happy to have my future sorted,” Cook said.
“Souths has been my home for the past three years and I didn’t think it would be possible to be able to secure things for the next five years, but I’m so happy that that will be the case.
“I’ve loved every moment of my time here, even the tough times, and I think we’re building to something nicely.
“It’s exciting times at the Rabbitohs.”
Cook began the 2018 NRL season in a fight with veteran Robbie Farah for the Rabbitohs No.9 jersey.
He ended the year as one of the NRL’s hottest off-contract commodities after starring in NSW’s State of Origin series win and earning two Test caps.
Cook had been linked to the Broncos after Seibold finally took up a five-year deal at Red Hill on Monday following a drawn out coach swap saga with Bennett.
Seibold had been close with Cook during his one season stint at South Sydney in which the hooker blossomed into a representative star, even attending the rake’s wedding this year.
Seibold moved to end the rumours upon his arrival at Brisbane, telling Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough this week that Cook wasn’t on his shopping list.
However, Cook was also reportedly courted by Wests Tigers, Newcastle and Parramatta.
The Rabbitohs were so keen to re-sign Cook that Bennett rang the hooker on South Sydney football manager Shane Richardson’s insistence to discuss his long term plans while he was still Brisbane coach.
It was one of several phone calls that Bennett made to South Sydney players that Brisbane used to sensationally sack the master coach via voice message for breach of contract.
Richardson was a relieved man after Cook put pen to paper.
“Damien has not only proven that he is a top level NRL hooker, he’s shown that he has what it takes to compete at the highest representative levels of the game,” Richardson said.
“We are very excited to have secured Damien’s services for the next five years.”