How Coen Hess added to his arsenal
He had plenty of weapons already at his disposal and North Queensland Cowboys forward Coen Hess has explained how his stint as a middle forward in 2017 has only added to his arsenal.
The 21-year-old back-rower led the Telstra Premiership for most tries in the regular season by a forward in 2017 with 12.
A healthy selection of those were scored while he played on an edge but due to injuries, Hess has moved in tighter and played plenty of minutes as a middle forward where he learned plenty.
"Playing in the middle has added to my arsenal as a player and I'll feel more comfortable if I have to play in the middle again this year," Hess told NRL.com leading into Friday's clash with the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
"I see myself as a back-rower where I've played mostly on the edge, but I am coming off the bench so I have to play where I am needed.
"On the edge, there are times in the game where you have to work hard, but being in the middle is a constant dogfight with the opposition and a lot of effort-on-effort."
The Cowboys knew they had a player of immense talent on their hands when Hess was coming through the under 20s system and signed him to a long-term deal as an 18-year-old to ensure he stayed in Townville during the key stages of his development.
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Venue: Suncorp Stadium
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Maroons coach Kevin Walters was so impressed he had no hesitation in throwing him into the Origin fray last year.
The scary thing for opponents is Hess has a long way to go to reach his peak.
"There is no doubt he still has plenty of improvement in him," Cowboys coach Paul Green told NRL.com.
"I thought his form dropped off post-Origin last year which is probably not surprising, but then he found form towards the back end of the season.
“He came through as a young fellow as an edge back-rower but he played in the Origin as a tight player, and I think his learning curve is about learning how to play both for us at the moment.
"Whenever a young bloke gets the chance to play another position, it gives them a different perspective on the game and how the middles can help the edge back-rowers and vice-versa.
"It is only going to make him an all-round player…but all in all, I think his best position long term is probably going to be edge back row."
Hess was living in Mt Isa when he signed a Cowboys scholarship and moved to Townsville to attend lgnatius Park College at the age of 15.
"I was lucky enough to get a 20s contract and then the Cowboys showed that faith in me to sign me long term," Hess, off contract at the end of 2019, said.
"I knew then that I had a few years to develop under some pretty good coaches in Todd Payten and Paul Green and looking back, it was the best move I could have made.
"Todd knows how to get the best out of his players and he taught me a lot in the under 20s about discipline on and off the field.
"Greeny has a real focus on the one-per-centers that maybe the supporters don’t notice. He has a real emphasis on those things whether it be a kick-chase or pressure on kickers.
"I've learned they are the things that add up to helping you win a game."
Payten, now an assistant coach to Green, agreed with his head coach that Hess would develop into a destructive edge back-rower over time.
"I think if you're a halfback having to tackle him from week to week, you'd be pretty petrified. He's got some unique skills, he's very athletic, he's got a nice little pass and he runs a really strong lead line."
Hess was not satisfied with just one or two big years but wanted to kick on and develop further.
"I've been fortunate with the start to my career that I've had but we've got a lot of experienced guys here like Matt Scott and JT who emphasise the need to stay grounded," Hess said.
"Despite all my accomplishments so far, I know I can't get too carried away. I know that if you get too far ahead of yourself, you can shoot out the back door."