Cowboys wrecking ball Coen Hess is ready to up the ante as a rampaging edge back-rower in 2019, a season where he insists the club will have "no excuses" for not roaring up the NRL ladder after a year of disappointment that left a lingering sour taste in his mouth.
The Cowboys have recently been on a pre-season camp near Cairns where Hess said there were several gruelling sessions but also plenty of team meetings to discuss the club's goals for the coming season.
Last season the Cowboys lost five from their first six to be out of the running for finals football by May. In their premiership year of 2015 they lost their first three and the season prior to that three of their first four. It is where they finish the season that counts, but for the often slow starters to the competition Hess told NRL.com on Monday there would be no excuses for a repeat of last season's 13th-placed finish
"I don't think we had any excuses last year either to be honest but the joy of football is that there is always next season and we are all working pretty hard at the moment to make sure next year we hit the ground running," Hess said.
"There will definitely be no excuses. Personally I want to contribute more over the 80 minutes and that comes down to fitness, and a bit of focus as well so I am not dropping out of games.
"Last year was a bit of a wake-up call for myself. Since I've been at the club we've always had a winning feel about things and to not make the finals last season was very disappointing and leaves a sour taste in my mouth. We are doing everything to make sure we are not sitting down the bottom of the ladder again."
Last year Paul Green told NRL.com that part of Hess's learning curve as a forward was to be able to play in the middle when required. He had that opportunity at in 2017 in club football and for the Maroons in State of Origin, and on occasion last season but the Cowboys recognise it as an edge-forward where he can be at his most devastating. Hess started 19 of his 23 NRL games in 2018 and ranked seventh among NRL edge forwards for tackle breaks per game, with 2.2.
"I think I will stick on the edge. That is where I see myself playing but having the luxury of playing in the middle does open a few more doors and help Greeny out a little bit," the 22-year-old said.
"I think I read the game out on the edge a bit better which I find a bit more enjoyable defensive-wise. I have come a long way from past years. I think I am a bit more effective on the edge running at small halves."
If all goes to plan the Cowboys will be able to utilise Hess in that role more than ever thanks to a middle forward rotation that has been strengthened by the recruitment of former Brisbane Broncos lock Josh McGuire, who Hess said would add punch to what Jordan McLean, Matt Scott, Jason Taumalolo and Scott Bolton already offer up front.
"It looks pretty exciting and I think the club has done really well recruitment wise with Barbs (Ben Barba) out the back as well," Hess said.
"Josh McGuire is a real character who brings a few laughs and on the training field he is a real workhorse. Everyone loves playing with guys like that."
Hess said he was "around 110 to 111" kilos at present, lighter than what he was at the same time last pre-season and approximately his playing weight from the 2018 season.
In the off-season he enjoyed a trip to Bali but when he came back he prepared for the start of pre-season with clean eating and hard yakka in the gym.