“I never took [my spot] for granted. And no matter where the Tigers are coming on the ladder, I still think Api has played some really good footy.”
Souths pin-up and NSW centre Latrell Mitchell said during the week he was baffled at Cook’s omission, while Souths coach Jason Demetriou told this masthead the loss to Parramatta last Friday – the final Origin audition – may have cruelled his No. 9’s hopes.
“Cooky is a bloke who has been there and done that at Origin level, and he’s been the mainstay of that team for four or five years and brought a lot of success to NSW,” Demetriou said.
“He wants to keep playing [for NSW], don’t get me wrong, but he also has a big focus now on something he hasn’t achieved, which is winning a premiership.”
Cook said the elusive NRL title was an easy excuse to stay motivated and said: “This year has been the most relaxed I’ve been with the Origin stuff. It’s because I’m getting older, and I haven’t won a premiership yet, and that’s my main goal.
“I want to get back to winning, playing our footy, and that’s what I want this weekend.”
Cook backed Koroisau to play 80 minutes, especially given the calibre of forwards around him, while Nicho Hynes or Jarome Luai were capable of spending time there either side of half-time if Koroisau needed a quick breather.
Meanwhile, Graham failed to finish Thursday’s captain’s run, but will return next weekend against the Titans.
“There’s no damage, the scans came back fine, it’s just a pain-management thing,” Demetriou said of Graham, whose right-centre spot will be filled by Jed Cartwright.