Rabbitohs star may not see mum until season’s end
South Sydney hooker Damien Cook has only seen his mum from a distance even before restrictions were first put in place and is facing the possibility of not being able to see her in person until the COVID-19 crisis is over.
While the rest of the state is now allowed to visit other households after lockdown restrictions were eased last Friday, NRL players were told on Monday morning any relaxing of rules didn't apply to them.
But it's a rule that Cook has adhered to long before lockdown measures were put in place because his mum, Anne, is a frontline worker as a nurse at Sutherland Hospital.
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It has also meant that as a precaution, Anne has only been able to see her six-month old granddaughter from a distance as well.
"I've only seen mum as a drive-by, she hasn't been able to hold Willow for a while now. Even on the weekend you were allowed to have two people over, so we did a drive by down but we couldn't get too close to mum only because she is actively working at the hospital at the moment," Cook told The Daily Telegraph.
"It's hard because she wants to hold her. But it's better if everyone makes a bit of that sacrifice at the moment. She's sad the next time she'll get to see Willow that she'll probably already be walking."
Coach Wayne Bennett summoned Cook and his teammates to Redfern Oval at 7am Monday morning since the game was suspended on March 23 for the club's biosecurity briefing.
Superstar Latrell Mitchell was in good spirits when he arrived for day one of training after being in the headlines for breaching social distancing rules over a week ago.
Mitchell and Melbourne star Josh Addo-Carr were fined after breaching social distancing laws during a camping trip on a working cattle farm owned by the Rabbitohs fullback on the mid-north coast of NSW over a week ago.
The NRL also sanctioned the pair, slapping them with a $50,000 fine - $30,000 of which was suspended - and a suspended one-game ban.
Cook revealed that a contrite and remorseful Mitchell reached out to the playing group immediately after the incident to apologise to his teammates.
"He's happy to be back around the team, it's something we all missed. I spoke to him when it happened, I texted him to see how he was going and he obviously apologised to everyone in the group chat," he said.
Five-eighth Cody Walker was one of many players who showed up to training either sporting a new hair cut or facial hair.
The playmaker has bleached his hair blonde during the suspension, a common trend among players who have been forced to train in isolation.
Bennett was willing to give the facial hair a pass but has told players the bleached hair must go before May 28.
"I've let my beard grow, if that's what you want to call it, but there is a bit of facial hair getting around and some terrible bleached hair. But Wayne has assured them no one will be playing first grade with that hair," Cook said with a laugh.
"He likes crew cut, military style, I think he'd be pretty happy if he could shave everyone's head."
Like at Redfern, Sydney Roosters medical staff greeted players at the entrance of the club's headquarters in Moore Park to screen players and coaches and to take their temperatures before they were allowed into the building.
Tricolours coach Trent Robinson stayed home after he was tested for COVID-19 on Monday morning. Robinson said he woke up with a sore throat, a coronavirus symptom, and opted to get tested as a precautionary measure.
The Storm briefed players at AAMI Park in Melbourne but will travel across the border into country NSW on Tuesday, where they will train in Albury. The Victorian government denied the club's request to train at their home base forcing an interstate relocation. They'll be housed in private accommodation and train out of the Albury Thunder rugby league training facility.
Further north, all three Queensland attended their respective training grounds to get up to speed with the strict coronavirus protocols. At Red Hill, Brisbane Broncos players were confident they could abide with the day-to-day restrictions and rules. While players are still allowed to go grocery shopping, cafes and coffee runs are a no-no unless deemed "essential". The Broncos are considering having a coffee van at club HQ so players can get their caffeine fix at training rather than venture out to a cafe.
Originally published as Rabbitohs star may not see mum until season's end