Suitors circle Cook as Bunnies consider top-up
SOUTH Sydney are under pressure to offer Damien Cook an immediate pay rise to help stave off rival NRL clubs from poaching their star hooker.
Parramatta, Wests Tigers and Newcastle are all understood to have expressed interest in signing Cook, who comes off contract at the end of next season.
Cook's preference is to stay at the Rabbitohs and it is understood his management and the club are working through the finer details of a five-year $4.3 million deal beginning in 2019.
Without a top-up, the NSW Origin, Australian and Dally M Hooker of the Year will only make around $300,000 next season.
The ace up Cook's sleeve in negotiations at Redfern is incoming coach Wayne Bennett, who is believed to have expressed a desire to keep the 27-year-old at the club whenever he takes over from Brisbane-bound Anthony Seibold.
But Cook has a growing list of suitors ready to swoop if talks with the Rabbitohs break down.
Newcastle, Wests and Parramatta have all expressed interest in the Helensburgh Tigers junior with at least one other Sydney-based club closely following the progress of his negotiations.
The cashed-up Tigers are looking for a long-term replacement for Robbie Farah once he hangs up the boots at the end of next season.
Former coach Ivan Cleary had earmarked up-and-coming No.9 Jacob Liddle as Farah's successor, but it's understood new Tigers boss Michael Maguire is keen to link up with Cook again.
In 2016, Cook asked for a release from his Rabbitohs contract to join the Cronulla Sharks as Michael Ennis' successor.
Instead, then Souths coach Maguire extended Cook's stay at Redfern until the end of season 2019.
A move to the inner-west for Cook could push Liddle to Belmore in 2020 with Canterbury sounding out the promising No.9.
The Eels recently announced they had re-signed Kaysa Pritchard on a one-year deal.
Rising star Reed Mahoney, who played nine games in his debut NRL year this season, has also been retained on a development contract outside of the top-30 squad.
But it's understood the western Sydney club are in the market for a top-class hooker and have the Blues rake in their sights for 2020 and beyond.
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