A crestfallen Damien Cook says he felt like he let down the green and gold jersey after Australia were given a reality check by New Zealand in Saturday’s boilover Test rugby league loss.
The South Sydney rake was handed arguably the toughest assignment in rugby league after being anointed Cameron Smith’s successor as the Kangaroos’ No.9.
It was just the Kangaroos’ second Test without Cameron Smith since 2006 – and the first since their 2009 Four Nations clash with France.
One of four debutants in the new-look Kangaroos, Cook was never given a chance to weave his magic in the 26-24 loss to the Kiwis in Auckland after his side committed a mountain of simple errors in an un-Australian-like performance.
Cook was taken off by coach Mal Meninga after 62 minutes of being successfully targeted by the Kiwis forwards where he was forced to make 42 tackles.
Cook said he was mindful of the jersey’s rich history and felt like he hadn’t lived up to its standards.
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“From my point you almost feel like you’ve left the past players down,” Cook said.
“Australia being so dominant for so long and to lose, it felt like we might have let them down a little bit.
“But we still played some good footy at times, showed some good character.”
The world champions will now be desperate to turn it around against rising Tonga at Mt Smart on Saturday.
Meninga says he will resist any calls to ring in changes, promising to stick solid with the same 17 that lost to New Zealand.
“It was always going to be a bit clunky at times,” Cook said.
“But we didn’t help ourselves by not holding the ball at times. We just need to be disciplined and give ourselves the best chance.”
Debutant five-eighth Luke Keary will need to pass concussion protocols during the week but is expected to take his place against Tonga.
Cook insisted it wouldn’t take much for Meninga’s men to turn it around but warned they once again risked being upstaged if they handed over cheap ball to the Mate Ma’a and their massive forward pack.
“It is the Australian team, we expect almost perfection,” Cook said.
“Moving forward to the Tongan game we’ve got to make sure we complete nice and high.
“That’s what we’ll learn. Just hold the ball, go set for set.”