An emotional Damien Cook fought back the tears following South Sydney’s 20-16 loss to the Penrith Panthers as he came to terms with a third straight preliminary final defeat for the Rabbitohs.
Souths have now lost to Penrith, Canberra and the Roosters in the last three seasons.
In the build-up to Penrith’s winning try, Cook’s missed tackle on Isaah Yeo which allowed the Panthers backrower to make a clean break and set up the winner.
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It was a similar scene to last year’s preliminary final, against Canberra, where with the game in the balance, Cook missed a key tackle on Raiders prop Josh Papalii.
The Souths hooker was clearly emotional at full-time, telling Fox League: “It is (agonising), a lot of hard work (goes into the season), so yeah. It’s hard, mate.”
In total the Rabbitohs missed 31 tackles and came up with 11 errors.
“He’s the heart and soul of Souths,” Fox League’s Cooper Cronk said of Cook’s emotional display.
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“He’s always putting himself up for interviews or leading by example and he’s emotional because Matt Russell asked about defence and Damien Cook, unfortunately missed the tackle on Issah Yeo that led to the Dylan Edwards try.
“I dare say that will haunt him for a period of time.
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“It’ll haunt the Rabbitohs, it’s three years they’ve gone out and missed the big dance.
“They need to work out what the difference is. They never gave up but it was the missed tackles and errors that cost them in the end.”
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Cook, who was consoled by Blues teammate and Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary after he completed his interview, said he couldn’t fault the performance of his teammates.
“I’m not doubting the effort, the effort was there,” he said. “Penrith were just too good, they had a plan and kept going at it and they capitalised on them (errors) when we didn’t.”
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