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Behind the Bennett and Seibold bids for Damien Cook

Damien Cook had Anthony Seibold in one ear. Wayne Bennett in the other.

And for the first time in a footballing career he thought had hit a dead end on three occasions, Cook had a crack at genuine job security. No pouring beers on the side, no mowing lawns on weekends.

Just the game's best up-and-coming coach, who in 12 months had lifted him from being an uncertain starting No.9 to the proud owner of NSW and Australian jerseys and Dally M hooker of the year honours.

And the most successful coach in rugby league's history, promising to take him even further.

As the Rabbitohs and Broncos danced an awkward dosey doe last November over the clipboards Seibold and Bennett would carry in 2019, Cook held fire on what had until then been a foregone, and thoroughly deserved extension at South Sydney.

Understandably, Cook put those plans on hold as the two coaches sorted theirs.

Wayne's words helping Cook take the next step

A formal offer to follow Seibold to Brisbane never eventuated. Not with the Broncos being "Andrew McCullough's team" according to Cook, and a maroon and gold salary cap already bulging with gun young forwards.

But Cook doesn't deny conversations with Seibold, and famously Bennett, took place late last year before he inked a five-year Rabbitohs extension worth more than every other NRL deal he has had combined.

"We did speak and I did say to [Seibold] 'I really enjoy being coached by you and I'd love to be coached by you again'," Cook tells NRL.com.

"He was the same. But we understood that that's his home up there, that's where he wanted to go and that's where his heart was, but mine's here [at Souths].

"We understood that that's rugby league, that's the game and that's what's can happen. It was win-win for us.

"If Seibs stayed, we got Seibs again who's a great coach. But Wayne's come in, he's the greatest coach of all time, the most successful coach at the most successful club."

When Bennett picked up the phone last November, he told Cook he wanted to make him the most successful hooker in the game too.

Among other interactions with Souths players, the call to Cook was cited as grounds for Brisbane to sack him.

With at least the next three years together and a Rabbitohs outfit well and truly capable of claiming a premiership, Bennett's call might well be cited as the right one to make.

"When it was all happening, Wayne just let me know that he wanted to coach me and he wanted me to be there while he was coaching me," Cook says.

"It was good to hear that but the other thing that enticed me, he saw that there was more to my game and I believe there is too.

"I really want to adapt my game and grow in certain areas. He told me that himself without me saying anything.

"He said 'I feel like there's a few parts of your game I think we can fix up, a few things we can add to your game to really be a dominant hooker'."

Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes (left) and Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook.
Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes (left) and Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Others have seen the same as Cook and Bennett, expecting improvement in the incumbent Blues and Kangaroos hooker – despite a 2018 season when he racked up the third most running metres (2330) for a hooker in the NRL era.

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And Cook, like everyone from NRL contemporaries to park footballers, wants more Cameron Smith in his game.

"The challenge for me is, when the game's going my way, to play to my strengths," Cook says.

"But when it's not going my way, to do what's best for the team and to try and control the ruck. That's where I can become a better hooker, that's what Cam Smith is so good at.

"He takes his opportunities but a lot of the time he just plays a perfect No.9 game and just does what's best for the team.

"That's the stage I want to get to, I want to work on my kicking game. I want to take the pressure off the halves and control the forwards a lot more.

"But at the same time if the opportunity to run comes up, I'm still going to take them."