Damien Cook in fresh Souths development as Eels swing axe ahead of pivotal NRL clash

Jason Demetriou has recalled Souths hooker Damien Cook.

Under-fire South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou made a bold decision to axe representative No.9 Damien Cook for the Bunnies' round six clash against the Sharks in what many expected to be Demetriou's final game in charge of the club. But the way his injury-ravaged side fought without some of their best players earned the coach a stay of execution and he has quickly moved to return the No.9 into the starting side for their Anzac Day clash with the Storm.

Cook's inclusion sees him reclaim the No.9 jersey from Peter Mamouzelos, who will come off the bench as part of an interchange rotation with his fellow hooker. Maroons forward Jai Arrow has also been named to return from a shoulder injury in a massive boost for the Rabbitohs.

Jason Demetriou has recalled Souths hooker Damien Cook for their clash with the Storm, while the Eels have shaken up their side after a dismal display against the Dolphins. Image: Getty
Jason Demetriou has recalled Souths hooker Damien Cook for their clash with the Storm, while the Eels have shaken up their side after a dismal display against the Dolphins. Image: Getty

While the loss of Tevita Tatola to a foot injury has seen Shaquai Mitchell named in the starting side and Jacob Gagai has been selected on the wing in place of the injured Tyrone Munro. Rabbitohs skipper Cameron Murray is also set to take his place at lock after suffering a concussion.

The Bunnies, however, will still be without Latrell Mitchell for the clash away to ladder-leaders Melbourne, with the superstar fullback still with two games to serve of his three-match suspension for elbowing Warriors half Shaun Johnson in the face.

Clint Gutherson retains fullback role amid Brad Arthur's Eels shake-up

Despite the rumours of a Clint Gutherson move to the halves, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has kept the star Eel in his preferred fullback role amid a massive shake-up at the struggling Eels. The Parramatta No.1 has always been a consistent performer but Arthur was under pressure to make some big calls to snap them out of a worrying form slump since the long-term injury to Mitch Moses.

Earlier this week veteran league reporter Phil Rothfield claimed Parramatta were seriously considering moving Gutherson from fullback to five-eighth to help out makeshift halfback Dylan Brown and also lessen the workload on his troublesome knees. Rothfield revealed that the Eels skipper has been battling through knee complaints week-in, week-out and could be replaced at No.1 by Blaize Talagi.

"Clint Gutherson, an absolute Warrior. He’s crook, he’s got bad knees," Rothfield told NRL 360 on Monday night. "What I’m told, it will either happen this week against Manly or very soon, they’ve got to get traffic out of his legs at fullback and that means going to five-eighth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blaize Talagi finds himself at fullback in the next week or two."

However, on Tuesday, Gutherson was named at fullback for their Friday night clash with Manly, while Talagi was axed from the 17 altogether. Daejarn Asi and Sean Russell were also cut from the side, replaced by youngster Ethan Sanders - who will make his NRL debut at five-eighth - and Fijian flyer Maika Sivo, who has been recalled on the wing.


Calls for Brad Arthur to make big changes at Parramatta

After the 14th-placed Eels were thrashed 44-16 by the Dolphins in their last match, Arthur was urged to make some big changes to a Parramatta team he described as a "part-time footy side". The Eels were winning 8-4 at halftime but let in eight tries in 25 second-half minutes, with Arthur accusing his men of "giving up" as he faces renewed scrutiny around his future at the club.

Pictured left to right, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur and Clint Gutherson.
It was rumoured that Parramatta were considering moving captain Clint Gutherson from fullback into the halves. Pic: Getty/AAP

“He’s got to change things. He’s got to make a few changes somewhere in the organisation to rattle a few cages,” NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent said. “Training wise, I would shake that up. I don’t know what their training is like, but I would make it harder and put them through a tough session a few times and kicking a few blokes in the backside...

“I’ll tell what some coaches also do, they cuddle them a bit because they know the minute they lose the players, if they lose the games, then they’re gone. So they’ll keep the players onside. I think he needs to back himself that he’s going to keep the job and I think he needs to light a fire under some of these players.”