Rival mates to bring out the best in Cowboys ‘thoroughbred’
THE opportunity to take on his mates is one Coen Hess is relishing. In fact he expects it to bring out the best of him against the Gold Coast Titans.
His North Queensland teammates have labelled him 'the thoroughbred' - a nickname led by stand-in captain Jordan McLean - for the way in which he has continued to tone his imposing figure.
But all the work he has put in since the off-season began, and continued throughout rugby league's coronavirus-enforced hiatus, will be for nothing if he does not use it to his benefit on the field.
For now, however, Hess is simply letting his new title roll off his back.
"Certainly it's a lot nicer than what they usually have to say about me. From a personal point of view I haven't really been digging into it too much," he said.
"Obviously I've done a lot of hard work but that doesn't mean anything if I don't put it on the field and perform.
"If you can't perform on the park then it's all for nothing."
When the Cowboys take to Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Friday night Hess will be faced with former State of Origin teammates Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow, as well as long-time teammate and rival Keegan Hipgrave.
In taking on the Titans as a whole, the 23-year-old powerhouse is not buying into what their rivals will try - adamant if they go into the contest with a predictive mentality they will get sidetracked from the task at hand.
However those personal relationships he has built across enemy lines are set to help him restart his NRL campaign in style.
"Obviously I've grown a bit of personal relationship with Jai and J-Wal from Origin camps and growing up playing against them," Hess said.
"They're pretty good mates of mine and I enjoy coming up against people I know on a personal level.
"To their credit they're really good footballers so it makes it a nice challenge for myself.
"I played a lot of footy with and against Keegan. He's an aggressive player and will come at you all day.
"I think it'll be a really good match up there and he's just another mate I enjoy playing against."
Hess admits that in the past he has been guilty of starting a season fast and fading as the year has worn on.
But that will not be a luxury afforded in 2020.
The restructured season due to the coronavirus pandemic will mean 18 consecutive weeks of football, and Hess knows each competition point salvaged will be critical to the Cowboys premiership aspirations.
"I think in a regular season you have a bit of luxury where you can afford to start a bit slow then lead into the back end of the season.
"With the shortened season you have to start fast and maintain that. It'll be something difficult and new for everyone, but it's an even playing field and everyone will be looking to start fast.
"Myself, I usually start the year pretty fast and tapper off, so it (the 18 round season) will hold everyone accountable and want to perform for the whole year."
Originally published as Rival mates to bring out the best in Cowboys 'thoroughbred'