Bulldogs stand-in hooker Damien Cook's impressive season debut last week was no surprise given the 24-year-old's diligent approach off the field, according to teammates who have given him the nickname 'Mr Professional'.
Both winger Sam Perrett and fullback Brett Morris – who has known Cook for several years after also playing alongside him at the Dragons previously – lauded the efforts of Cook in replacing the injured Michael Lichaa last week and said the team was in good hands with him at No.9 for the rest of the year.
While Lichaa's season-ending ankle injury is a blow to the club, Cook's efforts last week in scoring a try and setting up another with an amazing chase and bat-back from over the dead ball line proved the Bulldogs are far from a spent force in 2015.
"He's a fantastic player. He's always been someone that all the boys have relied upon," Perrett said of Cook.
"You could see it at training, through the NSW Cup games, he's a bit of a rock for the team. To see the flair that came out and what he did and how he stood up is amazing."
Cook's efforts after two years playing hooker for the Bulldogs in NSW Cup with just two NRL games last year look set to be rewarded with solid stint in first grade for the rest of 2015.
The energy the speedy Helensburgh product brought to the side was a huge confidence booster, Perrett added.
"Those little things, making that extra effort [to chase and set up a try], that's what makes a difference in big games, finals and in grand finals as well," Perrett said.
"For him to be able to show that, that's awesome. 'Mr Professional' is what everyone calls him, just in case you were wondering. That's his nickname, 'Mr Professional'."
Morris first got to know Cook back in 2012 when Cook joined Dragons feeder club the Illawarra Cutters.
"The first year he came to the Dragons I was his weights partner. So I got to know him quite well and could see how hard a worker he was," Morris said.
"He just did all the little things right. It's obviously taken him a while to try to get a lot of first-grade games under his belt but certainly when he goes out there he doesn't let anyone down."
Morris had no doubt Cook could handle the step up to first-grade level.
"I was confident in his ability, it just showed he can handle the stage. We played a very good side in Souths and he held his own. He's given a lot of boys a lot of confidence, especially the guys who haven't played a lot of footy with him," Morris said.
"He's certainly showed he can fill that position going forward."
It was a benefit to the team that Cook had been in the club NSW Cup system playing hooker all year and training alongside Lichaa, Morris added.
"It's a shame Michael got injured but it was an opportunity for Damien and he certainly stepped up. That's what we need this time of year – people to step up."
The speed the young rake showed to set up that remarkable try on the stroke of half-time against Souths also came as no surprise to Morris.
"If you know Damien well you know how fast he actually is. If you watch that play over you see he covers a lot of ground pretty quickly.
"It didn't surprise me at all. He used to be a beach sprinter so he's got a lot of power in the legs.
"We all know what he can do and he's a big part of why we won on the weekend."
This article first appeared on NRL.com