Master coach Wayne Bennett has hit back at critics of South Sydney hooker Damien Cook

Wayne Bennett has hit back at critics of Damien Cook after a sub-par season opener declaring his hooker an “absolute threat” who would quickly turn things around.

The spotlight went on Cook after the star dummy-half managed just four runs for only 25 minutes in the Round 1 loss to Melbourne Storm despite rule changes that were expected to open the door for more dashes.

Cook‘s teammates revealed this week that his running game had been a topic of discussion at training and the big men had pledged to help lay a better platform for the NSW and Australian hooker.

But Bennett declared Cooks’ slow night in Melbourne was all about a lack of opportunities.

The veteran mentor said he was never going to be “overly critical” and expected a quick turnaround against Manly on Saturday.

“For Damien when he came in to the game and started to make his reputation there was a lot of running but the game has changed a fair bit since then,” Bennett said on Friday.

“They are al making better so I was never really overly critical of his running game because you are not always going to have those opportunities.

“He’s dependent, like the half back on what our big guys are doing. I don’t want him running and getting tackled and going nowhere and we lose more momentum because he’s not a big guy so he’s not going to play the ball quickly.

“Those days are going to happen, they will happen again this season. But the end result is he is an absolute threat out of dummy-half and he’ll get it right.”

📝 MY TEAMS ANALYSIS 📝

The struggles of Damien Cook and Jason Taumalolo are the biggest issues facing @SuperCoachNRL this week. https://t.co/nKhMv47QmO

Bennett resisted the urge to move star recruit Jai Arrow from the bench in to the starting line-up this week despite his huge impact in getting the Bunnies back in to the game against Melbourne.

“I wasn’t tempted. A lot of people are trying to tell me that he should (start),” Bennett said.

“He did a great job for us. It was 22-0 and he come on the field and turned some things around so why would I really chance that? Our starting pack have got to do better than they did last week and I know they can do that.

“I was happy with what he and Benji (Marshall) did off the bench and I didn’t want to change that.”

After declaring himself a “utility” this week following his starring second-half cameo against Storm, veteran Marshall’s role against Manly this week remains up in the air.

Bennett said the 36-year-old play maker could slot in to any role and make Souths a better team.

“He’s a football player, you can play him anywhere any time, and he can get the job done for us,” he said.

“We were down 18-0 last week and I didn’t see any point in putting a middle forward on. He helped us enormously and got us back in the game.”

Tom Burgess is set to line up against the Sea Eagles, despite being sent to hospital last Thursday for scans after hurting himself against Melbourne.

And Bennett said dumped recruit Josh Mansour needed “more time” to get used to playing with his new teammates.

Source: Read Full Article