Damien Cook's move to rival NRL club confirmed after Souths smack down 'rubbish' rumours

The hooker won't see out the final year of his deal with the Rabbitohs.

Damien Cook has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the St George Illawarra Dragons and has informed his South Sydney teammates of the decision. Cook has been linked to the Dragons in recent weeks, and leading NRL journalist James Hooper reported on Wednesday that it's a done deal.

According to Hooper, Cook has agreed to a two-year deal to return to the Dragons from 2025 worth $500,000 per season. The veteran hooker still had one year remaining on his contract with the Rabbitohs.

Damien Cook at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Damien Cook has decided to leave the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Image: Getty

Cook made his NRL debut with the Dragons in 2013, but only played two games for the Red V before moving to the Bulldogs for more first-grade opportunities. He then joined the Rabbitohs in 2016 and has played 196 games for the club, becoming a State of Origin player in that time.

Jacob Liddle is the current hooker at the Dragons and has been in good form in 2024. He'll likely have to move to the bench to accomodate Cook.

On Tuesday, the Rabbitohs moved to smacked down claims the club was attempting to move Cook on because he's been leaking information. Souths officials reportedly told Cook's management earlier this month that he would not be offered a contract beyond 2025 and that they wouldn't stand in his way if he sought a new contract at a rival club. The Bunnies recently re-signed young gun hooker Peter Mamouzelos until the end of 2027.

Speaking on his potential move away from Redfern, Cook admitted that he ideally didn't want to leave. "Obviously it's a bit new to me, this sort of stuff, and I don't want to leave," Cook told Channel 9 last week. "But we'll just get through the game and speak to my manager next week."

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Damien Cook of the Rabbitohs runs the ball during the round 14 NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Cbus Super Stadium, on June 08, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Damien Cook's deal at the Bunnies runs until the end of 2025.

Since then rumours have emerged that Cook was not only told he could leave if he wanted to but that he is no longer required at the club after reportedly leaking information. But those claims were slapped down on Tuesday. "There's been rumours, which Souths have told me they're aware of today, that he may be being moved on because of leaks from the club," Nine News reporter Danny Weidler told 100% Footy.

"They've said that is absolute rubbish ... I put to them today, they said that is incorrect, Damien will not be asked to move on early from the club, instead they want to honour him in the best possible way and give him the send off he deserves as a player."

Weidler also put to bed rumours that record try scorer Alex Johnston could be on the way out. "Alex Johnston is in Wayne Bennett's plans and he will be there next year," Weidler said.

As well as eyeing off a new hooker, a top priority for Dragons coach Shane Flanagan is locking down star halfback Ben Hunt on a new deal. Flanagan told The Daily Telegraph that he was set to meet with Hunt and his wife Bridget in the next couple of weeks to finalise a one-year extension that will keep him at the Red V until the end of 2026. In a remarkable turnaround, Hunt is no longer trying to get an early release to head to a Queensland-based club as he is now reportedly happy with the direction the club is heading under Flanagan's leadership.


The Dragons - who haven’t managed to finish above 10th since 2018 - are currently sitting ninth and are firmly in finals contention with Hunt a large reason for their recent success. The Dragons half's 22 try assists is currently the most in the NRL this season, five more than the second-best mark.

The arrival of Flanagan and the on-field improvement of the side has given reason for Hunt to have faith in the team's direction and to even consider potentially ending his NRL career with the Red V. And journalist Dean Ritchie told NRL360 that it’s been a remarkable change in outlook from Hunt.

"I didn’t think there was any way back for Ben Hunt when he was public and forceful about wanting that release I thought there was no way he could stay," Ritchie said. "I spoke to Shane Flanagan and he says there’s a trust factor now. They trust each other."