DANGER MAN: Hooker Damien Cook of the NSW Blues during a team training session at the NSWRL Centre of Excellence in Sydney.
DANGER MAN: Hooker Damien Cook of the NSW Blues during a team training session at the NSWRL Centre of Excellence in Sydney. DAVID MOIR

Queensland must stop this man in series opener: Maroons icon

RUGBY LEAGUE: State of Origin icon Billy Moore believes New South Wales hooker Damien Cook holds the key to the series opener and says Queensland must shut down the in-form Rabbitoh in Melbourne.

The 26-year-old will make his debut on the big stage on Wednesday night after a stunning start to the season, in which he has menaced rival NRL outfits with darting runs.

The 180cm, 88kg dummy half could wreak havoc, especially if he benefits from quick play of the ball.

Sunshine Coast's Moore said it was vital the Maroons stopped him in his tracks.

"The key player for me, is Damien Cook for them. If we don't shut him down, we'll be in a lot of trouble.

"I think he's just been dynamic out of dummy half and they've picked an out-and-out back-line for points so if he punches a hole in the middle of the field their backs will really have a field day out wide."

Moore, who notched up 17 games for his state, reckons Queensland has the ability to put the clamps on Cook in Melbourne.

"We've got to shut him down and I reckon we can," he said.

He believed the defensive resolve of Cameron Munster and Ben Hunt out wide will allow the Maroons to press up and in with their defence, slowing down the Blues and their rake.

"They're great attacking players but Munster and Hunt are probably the best two halves defenders in the comp and that means we can box our defence up a bit and be a bit tighter," he said.

"That way we can really focus on shutting down that go-forward and making sure when Cook skips out of dummy half there's nowhere for him to go. If we do that, that will help us heaps."

Moore said the Maroons would need to keep their eyes on him.

"He'll capitalise on quick play the balls and sloppy markers, on our big middles getting a bit lazy on the inside, so we need to be aware of that and control the ruck," he said.

"We've lost the best controller of the ruck of all time in (Cameron) Smith, so there's a hole there to be filled.

"(Andrew) McCullough will do a good job but he can't do it alone. Smith's role is going to be shared amongst two or three players. That's how important he was and how good he was.

"So if we can box in a bit tighter to try and shut him (Cook) down it will take away one of their strike weapons."

He said NSW selectors had erred by picking Tom Trbojevic on the wing.

"The last place you want to learn the nuances of a position is during Origin," he said. "He's going to be down on GI's (Greg Iglis) side and (against) Valentine Holmes, one of the best finishers in the comp."


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