Despite a form dip following Origin last season, Cook has hit the ground running for Souths and new coach Wayne Bennett this season.
I played for NSW last year and have to earn my spot again.
“I loved watching Jake Friend when I was growing up – he’s a workhorse,” Cook said. “I trained alongside Cam McInnes – I have a lot of respect for him and how hard he trains – so it was good to get the first two wins over them.
“I played for NSW last year and have to earn my spot again. Freddy [Blues coach Brad Fittler] wants us playing consistent footy, playing high-quality footy week in, week out. That’s what got me picked last year and that’s where my focus is this year.
“I was really happy with my game management against the Roosters, but I could have helped the halves more against the Dragons. We lost our way a bit and I should have brought us back to the middle and play through the middle like we did early in that second half.”
Cook set up a try for Sam Burgess in the opening round with a grubber and had three try assists against the Dragons, including a lovely pass to put Cameron Murray through a gap for the first try.
He has grown to love Bennett’s mantra of switching off from football as soon as players exit Redfern.
Cook also says he has come around to the supercoach’s lack of enthusiasm for video reviews and previews. Bennett has made a point of telling Souths players to focus on themselves rather than their rivals in the early rounds, hence the focus on field sessions and not flatscreen TVs.
“We haven’t watched a lot of footage and I’m getting used to that, and understand why because Wayne only wants us to worry about our own games,” Cook said.
“They weren’t long video sessions under Seibs [former coach Anthony Seibold], but there were a lot of them, and a lot of content. It worked for us last year, but we also fell one game short [of the grand final].”
Cook played all three games for the Blues last year and went on to become the new owner of Australia’s No.9 jersey after the retirement of Smith.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.