ROBBIE Farah has firmed to start the season in the Rabbitohs’ No.9 jersey after a strong performance as the starting hooker in his side’s Charity Shield win.
Farah scored the first try of the game after 10 minutes and took command of the ruck as Souths got on top in the first half and never relinquished their edge.
After starting on the bench, Damien Cook continued his strong pre-season form that has helped him press his claims, kicking superbly for one of young flyer Braidon Burns’ two tries and keeping his side rolling out of dummy half when he got his chance after half-time.
Coach Michael Maguire has kept both hookers on tenterhooks, failing to guarantee either a start with round one looming.
But according to last year’s premiership hooker Mick Ennis, Maguire simply must give the responsibility to Farah.
Not because the star recruit is a better or more experienced player than Cook but because of his style, which Ennis says will bring out the best in Adam Reynolds.
“(Farah’s try) came on the back of about 10 minutes of momentum where he just got over the advantage line,” Ennis said during Fox Sports’ coverage of the Charity Shield.
“He brought his forwards onto the ball and it’s that ability Adam Reynolds likes, he likes to sit back and let the game unfold and just pick his moments and steer his side around with his kick.
“What that does now is allow Robbie Farah to control the ruck, use his kicking game and also frees up Cody Walker to be that natural footballer that he is along with Alex Johnston (deputising for rested fullback Greg Inglis) out the back.”
It was this formula that drove Reynolds to career best form and the Rabbitohs to a premiership in 2014, with star No.9 Issac Luke causing havoc around the ruck.
Luke’s form dropped off in 2015, triggering a South Sydney slide that deepened when the Kiwi defected to the Warriors, resulting in a dire 12th placed finish for Maguire’s side last year.
Clearly, the hooker position has been a source of frustration for Maguire for the last two years, with young hope Cameron McInnes failing to fulfil his potential and Cook starved of opportunities until late last season.
Now 25, Cook is coming into his prime but Farah’s guile around the ruck may yet keep his junior sparring partner waiting.
Retired Test star Corey Parker agreed with Ennis’ assessment, adding that Farah’s kicking game would be an asset for Souths.
“I think without a doubt it’s got to be Farah and he shows why,” Parker said.
“He’s got an early kicking game too and just his ability, as Mick said, to create around the ruck.”
However, with the main point Ennis made centring around Reynolds, it’s interesting to note that the Origin halfback recently told foxsports.com.au he’d give Cook the starting jersey.
“If I had to go off pre-season form, he’s probably our hooker,” Reynolds said of Cook.
“He’s done everything right, we’re forming a combination between the halves and hookers and fullback, with ‘Cookie’ and Farah.
“Either one we go with, it’s going to be great.”