Damien Cook says he is proud of South Sydney and NSW teammate Latrell Mitchell for withdrawing himself from contention for a spot in the centres for the State of Origin decider.
Mitchell hadn't played NRL since injuring a hamstring in round five but made his long-awaited return in South Sydney's upset win over Parramatta on Saturday night.
Despite his lack of game time, Mitchell had been considered a chance to earn selection in the third game of the Origin series, given his previous form and potency in attack.
But after the win over the Eels, Mitchell said his priority was to focus on rebuilding his game at club level and asked coach Brad Fittler not to consider him for Origin selection.
"I'm really proud of him," said Cook, who has played with Mitchell in seven Origin games.
"All the work he's done the last 12 weeks to get himself right and now to put South Sydney first, it's great work from him."
Mitchell had been set to compete with Jack Wighton, Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton for two spots in the centres but now that Mitchell has stepped aside, Fittler may choose to select all three players.
Crichton and Burton could keep their spots in the centres, while Wighton looks a chance to earn a spot on the bench, having recovered from COVID-19.
"It makes Freddy's decision a lot easier I'm sure," Cook said.
"(Burton and Crichton) did a great job in the last game."
The Rabbitohs sit in seventh spot on the ladder but will need Mitchell to stay fit if they're to book a spot in the finals.
South Sydney face five sides ahead of them on the ladder on the run home and have so far only won two of seven games against teams that started round 16 in the top eight.
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said he was pleased with Mitchell's decision.
"It shows a fair commitment from him to his teammates and to his club that he wants to perform here," he said.
"It shows a bit of respect to the Blues as well; after a great performance (in game two), he's confident that those guys can get the job done."
In his first game back, Mitchell was solid without putting on a masterclass.
Demetriou said his fullback was in a good position to build on his game in the coming weeks.
"He's in better shape than he was in round two when he came back (from suspension)," Demetriou said.
"He's coming back in round 16 when every bloke out there has played half a season. They're battle-hardened and they're a lot fitter and used to the game.
"For him to come back and see out the 80 was pretty good."
Meanwhile, Bulldogs assistant coach Craig Sandercock said Matt Burton deserved to retain his spot in the centres for Origin III.
Burton backed his Origin debut up with another solid individual performance for Canterbury in wet conditions.
"Judging by his performance here, he should be (in Origin)," said Sandercock.
"Today it was hard for Matt to put his case forward. It was a swimming pool out there and I'm surprised we got the quality of game we did.
"He was outstanding in that Origin game. He came in on Wednesday and insisted on training and did all his extras and was keen to lead us around the park."