Damien Cook's telling comment about Wayne Bennett as Cameron Smith highlights Dragons problem

The hooker is leaving the Rabbitohs right before Bennett returns as coach.

Video has re-surfaced from two years ago in which Damien Cook revealed he didn't think Wayne Bennett liked him or his playing style. Cook is set to leave the Rabbitohs with one year remaining on his contract and join the Dragons on a two-year deal from 2025.

The Rabbitohs' willingness to let the representative hooker walk came as a big surprise to the NRL club's fans, but comments Cook made in 2022 might go someway to explaining the situation. In a segment with Nathan Hindmarsh and Bryan Fletcher, Cook was asked if he'd think about joining the Dolphins when he came off contract in 2023.

Wayne Bennett, Damien Cook and Cameron Smith.
Damien Cook (centre) previously suggested that Wayne Bennett (L) didn't like him. Image: Getty

But he revealed Bennett, who had just signed as Dolphins coach at the time, probably wouldn't want him. "The wrong coach signed there," he said. "I don't know if he was a big fan of mine when he was here (at Souths). He just wants a hooker who can tackle and pass."

Bennett coached Cook at the Bunnies from 2019 to 2021, and will return to Souths on a three-year deal from 2025. Considering Cook's comments from two years ago, it doesn't seem much of a surprise that he's heading out the door with Bennett coming back.

Meanwhile, Cameron Smith has highlighted the dilemma the Dragons have created by snaring Cook, as it means they have to decide how to play him alongside Jacob Liddle. The Dragons have been playing much better in 2024 with Liddle as their regular No.9, but the 27-year-old might be forced back to the bench when Cook arrives.

“It’s interesting because they’ve got Jacob Liddle there as well, who I think has been playing some pretty good football throughout this season, and he’s a pretty handy dummy-half," Smith said on SEN radio. “So maybe they share that role. There’s no doubt that Wayne, even though he’s still coaching the Dolphins, he’d be doing some work in the background for the Rabbits.”

Damien Cook and Wayne Bennett in 2021.
Damien Cook and Wayne Bennett at the Rabbitohs in 2021. Image: Getty

Former NRL player Denan Kemp said he liked the signing of Cook from a Dragons perspective. “I like it, from the perspective of just getting some high quality players in that roster in key positions,” Kemp said.

“I’d feel a bit hard done by if I was Liddle but at the same time I would understand and assume, the Dragons aren’t getting (Cook) there to be an 80-minute hooker. Even though he looks as fit as ever and like he can get through 80 minutes, if you want to get longevity out of a guy like Cooky, whose more of an explosive hooker rather than a crafty hooker… I’d assume they’d be sharing that role between each player.”


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

He was dumped from Origin this year and his underwhelming form to start the season saw him dropped to reserve grade for a brief period. However he's been playing much better over the last month, but Souths clearly see 23-year-old hooker Peter Mamouzelos as the future.