By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
Dubbed Mr Professional out Belmore way former Dragon now Bulldogs hooker Damien Cook could very well be the difference ahead of the elimination final clash between Canterbury-Bankstown and St George Illawarra on Saturday.
Having played two games for the Dragons back in 2013 – Cook has come a long way since balancing football duties at the Illawarra Cutters with beach sprints training.
On top of that Cook's coaching commitments with a junior Helensburgh team and pouring beers for a living on the side took up the majority of any free time he had away from the sport.
Since Michael Lichaa's untimely season-ending foot injury back in Round 23, Cook has come into his own for the Bulldogs, earning man-of-the-match honours over the past three weeks.
Dragons captain Ben Creagh has not been shocked by Cook's swift rise.
"To tell you the truth, I haven't been blown away because I've seen how he went previously playing for the Cutters, and also having played and trained alongside him in first grade for us, he was always of really high quality," Creagh told NRL.com.
"He's a very fit guy, very determined and a hard worker and we are definitely going to have our hands full with him and he is very professional in what he does and it hasn't surprised me to see him doing well, I just find it awesome he's playing great."
St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan arrived at the club in Cook's final year in Wollongong and said the former custodian made a quick impression on him.
"He's been killing it and he's a good little player. He was playing fullback for the Cutters when I first got here so it just goes to show his versatility and he's been in some great form and he'll be going into Saturday with a lot of confidence," Dugan told NRL.com.
"We have to watch out for him. They have a pretty big pack as well so if they get a roll on then he's going to be dangerous for them so we have to find a way to slow down their momentum."
Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds has also thrown his support behind his teammate Cook, as the two look to strike up a quick combination with both Lichaa and halfback Trent Hodkinson gone for the year.
"He is going so well you know, it was only a matter of time until he got his crack and he's such a really good player. To tell you the truth I didn't think he was that fast but he's going so good," Reynolds said.
"I'm really happy for him because he's such a genuine guy and he really appreciates playing first grade which is what you want to see.
"You wouldn't want it to happen to anyone and I'm glad he is playing so well."