NSW hooker Damien Cook is all for the NRL’s crackdown on contact with the head and neck, saying it’s on players to adapt quickly before it infiltrates State of Origin.
The first game of the 2021 series is three weeks away and while the South Sydney star supports stamping out dangerous contact, he doesn’t want to see mass sin-binnings and send-offs enter the Origin arena.
Already the NRL has confirmed the tough stance that saw 14 sin-bins and three send-offs in Magic Round will be upheld during this year’s Origin series which begins on June 9 at the MCG.
It has put the onus back on players to adapt quickly to protect the game’s showpiece event, which is usually officiated more leniently than a regular NRL game.
While Cook said the unspoken rule of leniency usually leads to a more entertaining contest, he supports the NRL’s stance on player safety.
Quizzed on Tuesday whether players are adaptable enough to get the message before Origin I, Cook said they have been with other changes.
“The shoulder charge, everyone has changed that,” he said.
“It’s going to happen every now and then, but that’s what penalties are for, but even with the six-again rule, no one is really worried about it anymore.
“You watch teams cop a six-again and they just get on with it and defend it.
“That’s the way the game goes.
“The game is very adaptable and that’s what we like about it.
“We don’t want to change too much but you want to change certain things to create a new game, better entertainment and we’re heading in the right direction.”
Last year’s Origin series saw four sin-bins across the three games and James Tedesco, Christian Welch, Cody Walker and Boyd Cordner all suffer concussions.
NSW skipper Cordner is yet to return to the field after missing the final two games of last year’s series and won’t be selected to play for the Blues in 2021.
“We’ve got to give the refs time, we’ve got to give the game time as well for them to learn that and get the mix of when it’s 10 in the bin, when it’s a send-off and when it can just be a penalty,” Cook continued.
“We’ll find that right balance, but the game is heading in the right direction of making sure we look after our player welfare not just for now, but players later in life.”
Cook said players are acutely aware of their responsibilities to protect each other and are actively communicating it on the field.
“We’re looking after each other out there,” he said.
“You see with crusher tackles, a player backs in to the line and we say to each other ‘let his head out’, so we are looking after each other.”