Wayne Bennett insists there is no need to panic over the drop in Damien Cook’s running game, backing him to return to his best out of dummy-half.
Cook’s output at No.9 has been highlighted this week, after he ran just twice for 19 metres in South Sydney’s season-opening loss to Melbourne.
The 29-year-old burst to life in last year’s finals, but otherwise also took a while to get going last year despite the game’s quicker rules that were expected to suit him.
But Bennett stressed on Friday that while teams were learning to shut Cook down, the issue was as much to do with the Rabbitohs’ forwards against Melbourne.
“For Damien, when he came into the game and started to make his reputation, there was a lot of running,” Bennett said.
“But the game’s changed a fair bit since then and they’re all marking better.
“So I’m never really overly critical of his running game because you’re not always allowed those opportunities, and the Storm did a good job on us there.
“We weren’t winning the ruck and they dominated a fair bit and that nullified what he could do.”
“Those days are going to happen. They’ll happen again this season. But the end result is he’s an absolute threat out of dummy-half and he’ll get it right.
Cook shapes as a significant threat in Saturday’s clash with Manly, after the Sea Eagles’ defence was torn apart by the Sydney Roosters last week.
The only issue is likely to be Sydney’s big wet, which will almost certainly turn Lottoland into a quagmire and make for a much slower game through the middle.
Bennett meanwhile said he had no seconds thoughts about dropping big-name recruit Josh Mansour from the wing in favour of Jaxson Paulo.
The veteran coach favoured the experience of Mansour for last week’s clash with Melbourne, but indicated he now faces a longer stint in NSW Cup.
“(Josh) needs to get more time with us and get more used to us and Jaxson already knows how we play,” Bennett said.
“It was a tough decision to leave him (Paulo) out in the first place so I just reversed the decision.
“It was a pretty simple process really.
“(Mansour and fellow recruit Jacob Host) can spend more time training with us and other opportunities will come along.”
Meanwhile Liam Knight has again been ruled out with concussion, but Tom Burgess has been cleared to play after last week’s neck scare.