Cook channels Smith in new-look spine
SOUTH Sydney hooker Damien Cook wants to make an immediate impact as Australia look to bed in a new "spine'' in this month's two Tests.
Australia's World Cup final winners last November had Billy Slater at fullback, Cooper Cronk at halfback, Cameron Smith at hooker and Michael Morgan at five-eighth. Only an injured Johnathan Thurston was unavailable.
The retirements of Slater (30 Tests), Cronk (38) and Smith (56) from rep football stripped 124 Tests of experience from three positions.
"I've grown up watching him (Smith),'' Cook said. "He's one of the best players in our game and to go after him, I wouldn't say it was daunting (because) no one can be compared to him.
"I'd be looking to play my style of footy, which is a little different to his.
"One thing of his is game management and trying to win the ruck when it's slow. You learn. You want to make sure your defence is good and give the halves the best ball possible.
"Even to be here as one of the hookers in the Australian team is special. It's the highest honour in the game.''
Cook's fiancee Courtney Blaine agreed to delay their October 19 wedding in Sydney by two weeks so he could stay in Auckland next week for Australia's Test against Tonga the following day.
"It was a hard one to move because we weren't sure I was going to make it or whether there was going to be a second game,'' he said.
"My partner didn't want to risk putting it off close to the wedding. I let her make the decision.
"We have moved it a couple of weeks later and she gave me a few jobs to be done for the wedding before I came into camp.''