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The 2016 Contenders – Hooker

Words: Tom Skolarikis I Photos:


With the 2016 Telstra Premiership season fast approaching, it’s time to start asking the big positional questions. takes you through all the contenders for every jumper in the Red and Green starting 13. Every number is up for grabs, and those looking to fill the spots are as hungry as ever. Today, it’s all about the dummy halves.

The number nine jersey will be of particular interest in 2016, with three Rabbitohs vying for the spot in the form of; Cameron McInnes, Damien Cook, and Paul Carter. But while there may be only one number nine jersey, those looking to wear it are far from being at each other’s throats – in fact, they’re helping each other to become better by sharing their skills at training and pushing each other ever higher in a true act of selflessness.

“We’re helping each other out,” Damien Cook recently told

“We’re different styles of hooker as well, so we’re trying to learn the good traits off each other and it’s all about just working together to get the job done.”

With the benefit of the Auckland Nines and the Charity shield as a point of reference, McInnes and Cook shape as the front-runners for the hooking role, having spent the majority of their time occupying the position, while Carter looks set to ply his skills in the back-row.

But why stop at just one hooker? The fatigue factor in Rugby League is set to become even more prevalent in 2016 with the reduction of the game’s interchange to eight, and hookers are likely to be the ones who will benefit.

Rabbitohs Head Coach, Michael Maguire, may yet opt for a two-hooker system for his 2016 outfit – a move that could see one rake start the game, with the injection of a second coming later in the match as forwards and markers tire.

Those questions could be answered this weekend on the Gold Coast as the Rabbitohs prepare to do battle against the Gold Coast Titans at Pizzey Park in their final trial match of the pre-season.


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Cameron McInnes

A hard-working Souths Junior who has filled the Club’s number nine jersey before, Cameron McInnes is no doubt a viable option for providing good service from dummy-half moving forward.

Having been tutored by former long-time Rabbitohs rake, Issac Luke, and now having the benefit of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Cook and Carter, McInnes will no doubt be looking to take the best aspects of all the aforementioned player’s playing traits and then bring them to his already solid game.

In just 13 appearances in 2015, McInnes ran the ball 89 times for a total of 731 metres, while also managing to break the line on two occasions.

But it was McInnes’ defence that caught the attention of many, with the hooker averaging some 24 tackles per game with a total of 322 tackles for 2015.

Click here to watch some of Cameron’s 2015 highlights.


Damien Cook

With a combination of speed, agility, unpredictability and ball-playing skills, Cook has already made his presence felt for the Rabbitohs at the Auckland Nines tournament and the Charity Shield.

Coming on to replace McInnes at hooker against the Dragons last weekend, Cook wasted no time in showing up the Dragon’s markers by slicing through from dummy-half before streaking away to come within inches of scoring.

Throw in his ability to goal-kick – a surprise Rabbitohs Members learned following his pin-point touchline conversion in the Charity Shield – and Cook has plenty going for him in the race for positions.

Season 2015 saw Cook appear in 16 matches for the Bulldogs, scoring four tries, amassing 210 metres from 30 runs and making 248 tackles.


Paul Carter

When it comes to enthusiasm and energy, Paul Carter certainly has both. Throw in versatility as well, and the former Titan could prove to be a valuable asset in 2016.

Carter was a late arrival to Redfern in 2015 playing four games primarily coming off the bench, but even in such a short space of time, Carter’s usefulness was evident as he plugged holes across the team as he went in search of a permanent position.

If the Club’s 2016 trial outings are anything to go by, Carter will likely find himself playing in the back row, but his ability as a hooker could prove handy during the course of a long season.

Standing at 180cm tall and weighing 98kg, Carter could also deputise in the centres should there be a need.