KIERSTEN DUKE: Damien Cook leaving South Sydney so Peter Mamouzelos can shine may not pan out for Rabbitohs

Kiersten Duke
The Nightly
Blues must win tonight in Melbourne to keep the series alive.

Professional sport can be brutal where moneyball means more than loyalty.

Damien Cook has been a loyal servant of South Sydney for the best part of a decade and during the club’s darkest hours earlier this season he didn’t publicly rubbish the club even when he was dropped.

His reward? Being shown the door so the Bunnies can blood the next hooker they think can give them an effective spine on the field.

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Souths allowed Cook to be released from the final year of his contract next year to sign with St George Illawarra which is a great coup for the rebuilding Dragons.

The 32-year-old’s exit is the sad reality of the salary cap many teams are facing in the NRL.

But Cook now looks likely to finish his highly decorated career where it all began in a silver lining for the former NSW rake.

Raised in Sutherland, Damien made his debut for the Dragons in 2013 before he moved to the Bulldogs and then Souths in 2016.

Will Souths feel the pinch of losing one of the best hookers in the game? I think so.

To replace someone who has played for their state on 17 occasions is a huge risk.

Interim coach Rob Hornby seems confident that young gun Peter Mamouzelos has what it takes to step up long term, but I’m sceptical. Respectfully, it feels like a cub is being asked to be a lion.

While Mamouzelos is a great attacking player, he’s still got a lot of improvement to make if he’s to get anywhere near filling the hole that Cook will leave at the club.

Whether incoming Bunnies coach Wayne Bennett had any say in the move is unclear, but it will free up cash for Bennett to mould the roster to his liking. Let’s see what magic he can produce.

Tomorrow, at precisely 7.45pm, history will be made in the women’s State of Origin. This year the series was extended to three games for the first time and the girls have not disappointed.

It all comes down to the the wire in what should be an absolute thriller in Townsville.

The Sky Blues claimed Game I 22-12 at Suncorp Stadium before the Maroons dug deep in rainy conditions to win by a field goal 11-10 in the last moments of Game II in Newcastle. With a bit of rain forecast in Townsville I feel nervous for the Blues.

In Game I they came out all guns blazing, leaving Queensland too stunned to recover.

But that was played in much drier conditions and we saw how the rain left them looking slower and more disconnected in Game II.

The tough conditions might not have allowed them to play a fast game, but it did give NSW a good chance to utilise their bench. Keeley Davis’ fresh legs were what got her over the line to score the opening try.

It will be interesting to see how heavy the rain is on Thursday night and whether the bench will be heavily utilised to keep up the intensity of the Blues.

Someone I loved watching shine in Game I and can’t wait to watch play again is Sydney Roosters back rower Olivia Kernick.

She went hard in Game I, clocking more metres than anyone else with 171m from 14 runs.

On top of a line break assist and three tackle busts, Kernick also smashed 76 post contact metres. She absolutely played her guts out and on top of that is a great human being.

You couldn’t find a better teammate or idol for young female fans dreaming of their Origin debut.

So if you’re in Townsville get along or, if like me you will be watching it from the warmth of my loungeroom, then tune in.

Olivia Kernick during Game I.
Olivia Kernick during Game I. Credit: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

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