NRL Semi Final - Eels v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: Damien Cook of the Rabbitohs celebrates as he runs in to score a try during the NRL Semi Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium on October 10, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

This Sunday, we will be spoilt. We have two tremendous sides clashing on the biggest day of the season with everything on the line.

I have the honest feeling that this game will be live well until the late minutes. I'm on record as predicting this game will be decided via a late field goal.

Player for player, these may be the most evenly matches teams across the entire competition.

Their finishing positions combined with the fact they're contesting a grand finals confirms both teams quality, but looking at the direct match-ups, there's nothing between them.

Both sides have young, talented fullbacks in supreme form. Both sets of wingers and centres are metre eating and try-scoring machines.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: Dylan Edwards of the Panthers celebrates scoring a try during the round 17 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Gold Coast Titans at Panthers Stadium on July 12, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In the halves we have two sets of New South Wales Origin representative halves.

Up front, we have two sets of forwards among the elite in the game. The collisions early on will absolutely shatter those of us lesser than the hulking giants set to run out on Sunday evening.

We have two incredible benches. Both are capable of injecting match-winning ability at any time.

Off the field we have a battle of the master coach in Wayne Bennett and the relative youngster who is fast cementing himself in top tier of coaches in Ivan Cleary.

There is one battle that stands out beyond them all. The clash between two of the, if not the two, premier number nines in the game right now.

The battle of the undisputed number one for New South Wales in South Sydney's Damien Cook and the man who played off the bench in Origin 3 in Penrith's Apisai Koroisau.

Of course the player of the match could come anywhere on the park. The quality in every single position is high.

I am willing to go on record right now as saying that if either number nine largely outplays the other then their side is well on the way to victory.

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Damien Cook can break this Sunday's decider open at any time. It only takes one run.

Panthers ruck defenders will have to be especially alert whenever Cameron Murray hits the ball up. Cook's eyes light up each and every time his megastar middle tucks the ball under his arm.

One quick play the ball. One lazy or out of position defender. One second. He's off!

DAMIEN COOK
Hooker
Rabbitohs
2021 SEASON AVG
42.8
Tackles Made
0.1
Tries
0.3
LB Assists

Cook's running game has been such a weapon for the Bunnies across multiple seasons. There's no number nine in the game as threatening as the Bunnies hooker.

Across the park though is perhaps the closest threat in Api Korisau.

He won't as likely break a game open out of nowhere but his constant threat from dummy half can't be understated. Earlier this season he made a bad decision off the field but he very rarely makes the wrong decision on it.

His role early will be to provide quick ball to his halves. As the game opens up though and the forwards tire, watch out for an Api break.

Both men are tackling well above 90 per cent. Koroisau is just under 94 per cent while Cook is at almost 96 per cent.

APISAI KOROISAU
Hooker
Panthers
2021 SEASON AVG
38.5
Tackles Made
0.2
Tries
0
LB Assists

Neither are going to let their side down in defence. Both can make 40+ tackles and not miss many. I can't see a world where one of these two misses the match-defining tackle on Sunday night.

I do believe that this one on one contest will come down to who can go largely unnoticed early yet grow into the game.

The early sets are all about getting quick ball to your halves or set up the next hit up.

As the game moves into the second act then I will be watching keenly to see which superstar number one stamps their performance.

The contest is so close it could come down to one run. One short kick from dummy half to force a re-set. A 40-20 out of nowhere. A burrow over from less than a metre out.

Prediction:
If you presented me the option, I'm taking Damien Cook in terms of pure quality. He's also featured on the big stage more than his direct nine.

He holds ever the slightest advantage here due to his incredible combination with Cameron Murray. No player is able to assist their number nine with a quick play the ball quite like Murray.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 15: Cameron Murray of the Rabbitohs watches on during the round 14 NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers at ANZ Stadium on June 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

I expect both nines to be kept rather quiet in the first 20 to 25 minutes. Neither will want to overplay their hand.

As the half draws to a close I'm willing to almost guarantee Cook goes for a scoot and causes chaos.

Whether or not the Bunnies can break down the brilliant Penrith defence on the back of said run is another story.

This battle is everything between the two NSW Origin hookers.

Cook edges it, ever, ever so slightly and therefore I'm leaning toward Souths very late on.