Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has compared Canberra Raiders rookie Tom Starling to representative star Damien Cook ahead of Thursday night's blockbuster Grand Final rematch against the Sydney Roosters.
Coach Ricky Stuart has named Starling on the interchange bench after captain Josh Hodgson suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the Raiders' 20-14 loss to the Storm on Saturday night.
It adds to a heavy-injury toll for the 2019 Grand Finalists with John Bateman, Sia Soliola, Bailey Simonsson, Corey Horsburgh and Emre Guler all sidelined for an extended period.
Starling hasn’t played in the NRL since Round 14 last year but Fittler said the dynamo hooker was a player who possessed a similar running game to Cook.
“They have a young kid coming in, Tom Starling, and he’s not Josh Hodgson but he brings a part of his game which is about speed," Fittler told Five with Freddy.
"He's a lot like Damien Cook where he is extremely fast out of dummy-half.
"He's a tough little kid and has also been a part of the NSWRL Pathways program for a long time.
"Don't underestimate this little fella. If everyone in the team is doing their job then he won't let them down."
Starling was a member of the victorious CABE NSW Under 18s squad in 2016 under the reign of Fittler.
He made his first-grade debut with the Newcastle Knights in 2018 before signing a train-and-trial contract with the Raiders at season's end – making three appearances for the club in 2019.