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Cook our finals X-factor: Hasler

Canterbury coach Des Hasler believes rookie hooker Damien Cook can have a similar impact upon the NRL finals to the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Michael Morgan and Anthony Milford.

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Ahead of the Bulldogs’ elimination final against St George Illawarra on Saturday, Hasler says Cook is among a number of youngsters set to make their mark in September.

Cook, 24, has played just a handful of games this season after taking over the dummy half role when first choice rake Michael Lichaa suffered a season ending ankle injury in round 23 against Gold Coast.

“I think it will be a really exciting finals series with some good footy played particularly with the emergence of a lot of new players, a lot of rookies that have really stamped their name on the game,” Hasler told media at Belmore Sports Ground on Friday.

“Players like the Milfords that have come up, obviously the Tuivasa-Shecks, the Morgans all those types of players are going to make it a very interesting finals series.

“Young (Mitch) Rein who is playing against us tomorrow night, and Damien Cook gets his opportunity in this finals series.

The former Dragon has played just seven first grade games but has been one of the Dogs’ best in their final month of the premiership.

“Damien has come in and picked it up and rolled on with it,” Hasler said.

“He displayed some good qualities last year, he has trained hard he has been really consistent and it has been no surprise to his teammates.

“The thing the players like about Damien is that he doesn’t get carried away, he knows his role.”

Canterbury Fullback Brett Morris will return from a minor quad injury to face his former side in the sudden death encounter.

Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop missed the joint venture’s final round match against Wests Tigers due to a quad injury. He wasn’t named by coach Paul McGregor on Tuesday but Hasler said he expect the England international to play at ANZ Stadium.

“We have trained for Gareth to play and for Gareth not to play it will almost have to be a broken leg and that is the same for any player,” Hasler said.

“At this time of year you want to play and he will do everything in his power and I am sure St George will do everything in their power to get him to play.

“So, yes, I expect him to play.”

The Dragons beat the Bulldogs 31-6 in round six earlier this season before the Dogs returned the favour 29-16 in round 13.

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