This time 12 months ago the starting hooker position at the South Sydney Rabbitohs was up for grabs. At one end you had a veteran presence in Robbie Farah, who had on numerous occasions throughout his distinguished career donned the Green and Gold jersey along with a stack of appearances for the New South Wales Blues. At the other, Damien Cook, who had shown flashes of brilliance in his first-grade career but was yet to make his representative debut, and whose primary goal was to nail down a role as an 80-minute hooker.
Fast forward to 12 months down the track, and there's little Cook hasn't ticked off on his to-do list.
It took the pre-season to earn his position as an established 80 minutes player. Later in the year, he played all three Origin matches for New South Wales, playing a pivotal role in the Blues' series victory. He helped get the South Sydney Rabbitohs back into the realm of Finals Football for the first time since 2015. He won the Provan-Summons Award as the best player in the game, according to the voting public, and he added the Dally M Hooker of the year award to that trophy cabinet too.
Now, he tops off 2018 with an Australian Kangaroos jersey, an achievement he describes as an honour.
"It's a very proud moment for myself, my partner Courtney and the family. I'm very honoured to be named in the Kangaroos squad and have a lot of people to thank for the great opportunity." He said.
Cook is the first to tell you that his achievements have been made possible because of the hard work of his teammates, and one person he thanked, in particular, was Club, and now Australian captain Greg Inglis, who delivered the news that Cook was to don the Australian number nine.
"Greg rang me this morning to let me know," he said.
"It was a special moment I'll always remember, to have my good mate and Club captain and now captain of the Aussie team give me the news... [It] was very special coming from one of the best players to ever play our game."
South Sydney Rabbitohs' Head Coach Anthony Seibold was the man responsible for giving Cook first crack at the number nine jersey at the start of the year. He was rewarded countless times throughout the year with Cook not only showing he was the form hooker at the Club, but across the entire competition, & enjoyed a box seat to Cook's rise.
"[I] Couldn't off been more proud." He said.
"It's been an incredible 12 months for Cookie, he worked so hard to be the starting number nine at NRL level so for him to be recognised as the Dally M hooker of the year, NSW Origin selections and now Kangaroos selection, it's incredible, it really is... In my opinion, he's been the most improved player across the competition and he's been outstanding for us. [The rewards are] very much well deserved."
Cook's first assignment in the Green and Gold comes against the New Zealand Kiwis on October 13 in Auckland before facing off against a Tongan side the following week featuring a couple of familiar faces in the shape of Robert Jennings and Junior Tatola.
The banter between the three is yet to begin with Cook deciding to play straight when asked if any sledging had begun.
"I congratulated them when the team was named but haven't spoken to them since." Said Cook.
"They have always been there and played at the top level for their country so they might be able to give me some advice for the game."