European World Cup duo land NRL deals ahead 2023 campaign

Drew Darbyshire
Josh Cook Ireland NRL SWpix

Photo: Will Palmer/SWpix

Ireland hooker Josh Cook and Italy half-back Daniel Atkinson have signed deals in the NRL ahead of the 2023 campaign getting underway.

Cook, 23, has joined St George Illawarra Dragons on a train and trial contract. He will make his first appearance for the club when they take on Super League champions St Helens in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.

The Sydney-born hooker has spent the past three seasons in the NRL system. Cook was at South Sydney Rabbitohs between 2020-21 before moving to the Bulldogs, but he has yet to make his NRL debut.

Cook made his international bow for Ireland at last year’s World Cup, qualifying for the nation through his grandmother, who is from Belfast. He played in all three of Ireland’s group games at the World Cup.

Speaking exclusively to Love Rugby League last October, Cook was off-contract at the time and said he was open to offers in Super League. But his future, for now, remains in the NRL after linking up with the Dragons.

Cook is incredibly proud of his Irish heritage, saying: “My grandma is from Belfast. She is a very proud Irishwoman and it was a great feeling wearing that jersey and singing the anthem, so I hope I made her proud.

“It has been a dream of mine to represent where I’m from. Ireland is a very special place and my family is very proud of what we are building.”

Italy star returns to the NRL

Cronulla Sharks have snapped up Italy international half-back Daniel Atkinson on a one-year deal for 2023.

The 22-year-old made his NRL debut for Melbourne Storm against the Sharks in 2021. Last season played in the Queensland Cup for the Sunshine Coast Falcons, who granted him a release from his 2023 contract so he could join Cronulla.

Atkinson, who was born in Brisbane, qualifies to play for Italy through family heritage. He made his international debut for the Azzurri at the World Cup last autumn, playing in all three of their group games.

Atkinson is likely to make his first appearance for Cronulla in their friendly against Newcastle Knights on Friday.

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