‘I’m very lucky’: Text exchange that squashed Cook’s pre-game nerves
Damien Cook has described how his pre-game nerves were erased by a simple "I love you" message exchange with pregnant wife Courtney just before starting his State of Origin warm-up, with the simple text pushing him to give it his all in a stellar performance at ANZ Stadium.
The star hooker said the normality of the pre-game ritual calmed his nerves before stepping onto the paddock and he felt "very lucky" to have someone beside him that "does everything possible to make sure that I can just relax".
"It’s every game just before warm-ups," he said. "Sometimes she is slow to reply and I’m like 'I've got to go to warm up!
"That's the last thing I do before each game."
A sweet text exchange before heading on for warm-up was said to be key in settling Cook’s nerves.Credit:AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
"She grew up with footy with her dad and she knows the game too well sometimes," he said. "I get some criticism that I don’t like, but I always ask her how I go after a game."
Another person who had a pre-game message for Cook was his mother Ann, who is widely credited for Cook's authentic nature.
"My saying to him was always: look after yourself, look after your mates and look after your reputation … and just to be good to people," she said.
Ann says she felt particularly anxious before the match, worried for his safety due to her occupation as a nurse. After riding the highs and lows of Origin alongside her son, Ann says the game left her feeling "mentally and physically" exhausted.
"As soon as the season starts this wave of anxiety comes over you because you ride the emotions with them," she said. "At least when they were younger at least you could actually walk up and down the sideline but when you’re sitting in a stadium you do all these micro-movements, I feel like I need an ice pack, you brace yourself, at the end of the game you’re exhausted."
With a supportive family unit behind him, it's no wonder Cook has solidified himself as one of "good guys" of the game.
"We are just a really close family," Ann said. "This time last year his brother flew out from London to Dubai did a three day turn around just to see him debut."
And it was his debutant Origin year that Cook was happy to attribute to this year's decider success.
"I learnt from last year and I understood what was coming and what the week entailed and the lead up to the game," he said. "Obviously being the decider was completely different but I controlled the nerves a little bit more."
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