Souths hint at cooking up some more Mamouzelos minutes

Scott Bailey |

South Sydney are poised to hand more game time to Peter Mamouzelos as the Rabbitohs begin to prepare for life without Damien Cook.

Cook was granted a release from the final season of his Souths contract this week, paving the way for him to sign with St George Illawarra for 2025 and 2026.

One of the Rabbitohs’ favourite sons, Cook has had a mortgage on the club’s No.9 jersey since Souths’ return to the finals in 2018.

Wayne Bennett is yet to confirm his plans at hooker for his arrival next year, but has ruled out a play for out-of-favour Sydney Roosters No.9 Brandon Smith.

One option is Mamouzelos, who has started in one game this year and played seven off the bench.

There had been sections inside the club pushing for him to have more game time from the start of this year, with the Rabbitohs junior now aged 23.

Interim coach Ben Hornby lauded Mamouzelos as an option for next season, believing he is capable of being a long-term starting hooker in the NRL.

“We’ve got Pete Mamouzelos there. He’s played pretty much every game this year, so he’s ready to go,” Hornby said ahead of Saturday’s clash with Manly.

“He probably hasn’t had the game time that he’d like, but it might be coming.

“He’s a great attacking player, he’s got great instincts around the ball and is a solid enough defender and he’s still young, so he’s got plenty of improvement.”

Hornby labelled Cook’s exit as a reality of the NRL, and conceded it was not necessarily what the former NSW and Australian Test No.9 wanted.

“The reality is that the salary cap is what it is, so you have to try to fit the pieces in as best you can,” he said.

“For ‘Cookie’, it’s not what he wanted, but he’s made the decision now and he’s happy with it.

“We’re looking forward as a club and he’s looking forward to the same. This year is the most important thing for us at the moment.

“I’ve spoken to Cookie. We had a chat earlier in the week and he informed me of what was going down.

“He’s been great, so there’s no reason why he won’t continue to be great at the end of this year and going forward.”