Cook has nothing to prove despite World Cup snub: coach
Jason Demetriou claims Damien Cook's World Cup snubbing could play into South Sydney's hands, adamant the star hooker has nothing to prove this season.
Cook remains one of the best dummy-halves in the game, but lost his Kangaroos Test jersey to Harry Grant and back-up No.9 Ben Hunt last year.
The long-time NSW rake was also relegated to the bench in State of Origin behind Apisai Koroisau, after being the Blues' premier No.9 for the past five seasons.
Demetriou can see the upside though, ahead of the Rabbitohs' season opener against Cronulla at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday night.
Cook's World Cup absence means he has been able to enjoy a full pre-season at the Rabbitohs, as opposed to the limited month-and-a-half experienced by other Australian players.
He also hasn't noticed a change in the 31-year-old's demeanour, with the fight on to reclaim both his NSW and Kangaroos No.9 jerseys.
"I don't really care how he took it. I'm really excited about him wearing the (Souths) jersey," Demetriou said.
"He has no point to prove to me. No point to prove to anyone. We love having him in our team.
"There are benefits to him not going to a World Cup as well with a great pre-season, and he has got those benefits now.
"I know where his motivation is, he knows where it is. If he stays at that off the back of a great pre-season, rep footy will take care of itself. It always has."
Cook's situation sums up the Rabbitohs' summer.
Back in 2022 they had a rookie coach, rookie halfback, new captain and off-season surgeries to a number of their stars, this year is the opposite.
Last year's setbacks came before Souths lost three of their opening four games and six of their first 11, as they had to wait until the last fortnight to cement their finals position.
And while they reached a fifth straight preliminary final before running out of steam against Penrith, Demetriou knows they can better set up their title charge in 2023.
"It's an emotional roller coaster and if you're chasing your tail and you're up and down all season, that takes its toll on you mentally as much as it does physically," Demetriou said.
"You want to get off to a start and get your season off early.
"There were a lot of factors last year that probably influenced the first half of the season around injuries, a new coach, new captain.
"All those things take a little while to get going. That's not there this year.
"It's about going that step further."