Cook’s high praise for Origin foe


“I haven’t watched a lot of Brisbane, but I know from McCullough in the past … I love watching him play,” Cook said. “He’s someone who knows how to get his team around really well.

“I get along with him really well. I enjoy coming up against him as [he’s] one of the great hookers of the game. I’ve learned a few things from him as well.”

I enjoy coming up against him as [he’s] one of the great hookers of the game

Damien Cook

Pressed on what areas of McCullough’s game he has analysed, Cook said: “The one is game management. I ran or passed last year and this year I’ve got to make sure I do my job in getting the forwards around as well and helping the halves. That’s something that he does.

“He’s also just very strong in defence. And that’s something you have to do as a hooker – be very strong in defence and it’s something I’ve been working on the last couple of years.”

Queensland coach Kevin Walters is expected to use either McCullough or Dragons halfback Ben Hunt as his No.9 for the opening game of the series next month, pending Daly Cherry-Evans’ fitness.

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Cherry-Evans was set to win the nod as Maroons halfback, but a syndesmosis injury is threatening to stop him being available for the Suncorp Stadium clash. It could mean Walters elects to push Hunt back into halfback and give McCullough a reprieve.

“Ben is a great player,” Cook said. “He plays well at half and plays well at hooker. He’s pretty crafty around No.9. We’ll see which way they go.

“I’ve just got to make sure I’m playing good footy here and if I get my chance in Origin again I’ll worry about that then.”

McCullough’s service will come into even greater focus with Warriors-linked halfback Kodi Nikorima to be replaced in the Brisbane line-up by teenager Tom Dearden.

It’s likely to heap even more responsibility on another Queensland contender Anthony Milford, who will assume the senior partner role in the Broncos halves.

“He’s a great talent and he shows he can be a general in their footy side,” Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker said. “On the weekend he put up those towering kicks [against the Sharks] and put their winger under enormous pressure. They capitalised off the back of it.”

Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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