Frizell, Cook go from under 7s to Blues brothers

Tyson Frizell spent his formative years in rugby league trying to rough up Damien Cook.

Realising he couldn't catch him, let alone beat him, he even took a crack at converting him to rugby union.

Almost 20 years ago they first crossed paths in Illawarra junior footy. Now Frizell joins his one-time sparring partner, now good mate at Suncorp Stadium chasing a rare Origin series clean sweep.

"We always played against each other growing up, [Cook] was at Helensburgh and I was at Corrimal and he was their go-to man. He'd run around everyone and I was probably the biggest kid coming through," Frizell told NRL.com.

"From about under-7s we were playing in the same age group and we played a lot of footy against each other. Then when he moved to Illawarra Sports High we ended up close mates at school.

"I always knew who he was, he was the kid I had to try and get and he always knew who I was.

"I could never get my hands on him because he's always been so quick and he'd stay away from me."

NSW forward Tyson Frizell.
NSW forward Tyson Frizell. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

When Cook moved schools as a teenager and landed at Illawarra Sports High alongside Frizell, the hulking back-rower convinced his future NSW Origin teammate to attend a couple of rugby union trials.

Frizell's rugby roots are well known as a 2009 Australian Schoolboys tourist, with an offer from Cronulla trumping interest from the Waratahs.

Cook's credentials aren’t that strong - he reckons he's played less than a dozen games in the 15-player code.

After he was snubbed for higher honours in his final year of schoolboy league, Cook followed Frizell into rugby and managed to crack the Australia A side that same year.

Despite not knowing the rules. Or ever playing the game before.

"I was lucky to have Tyson Frizell as my inside centre so he did a lot of the hard work and just tipped the ball onto me," Cook grins.

"He pretty much carried me through schoolboys footy there so it was a bit of fun. I didn’t make any league reps so I gave union a go.

"To be honest I don’t watch a lot of rugby now, I actually didn’t know many of the rules either while I was playing. I was just lucky to have him there to teach me along the way so it was a bit of fun back in school there."

Frizell says there was little luck to do with Cook's quick take-up of rugby as a teen.

"He didn't have to do too much, he'd catch the ball and take off, he didn't go near too many rucks or anything like that.

"They'd just get the ball out wide and let him run. He ended up going to Aussie A's, that's a fair effort for a bloke who didn't know the game."

NSW hooker Damien Cook.
NSW hooker Damien Cook. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Cook's rise through rugby league's ranks has been just the opposite, with stints at Penrith, the Dragons and Canterbury leading into his breakout season with the Rabbitohs and Origin honours.

Frizell was at St George Illawarra when Cook cracked an NRL debut in 2013, one of­­ just two games the running rake managed before moving to the Bulldogs.

Even with a starting No.9 jersey only arriving five years later, when new South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold backed Cook over Robbie Farah for the gig, Frizell always figured the whippet-fast seven-year-old from his childhood would eventually crack the big time.

"It's taken awhile for Cookie, for sure," Frizell said.

"But he always had the talent and the work ethic, he just needed a decent chance. It's great to see him take that and really make the most of it."

Origin at Suncorp, there's nothing like it! Game III tickets available here