COEN Hess admits he needs to adopt an Origin-style mentality to keep his Queensland jumper as the Cowboys hulk faces a Maroons threat from back-row rivals Felise Kaufusi and Matt Gillett.
Hess has played five consecutive games for the Maroons, but North Queensland’s spluttering early-season form has turned up the heat on the Cowboys back-rower in the battle for Origin jumpers.
The line-busting brilliance which catapulted Hess to a stunning Origin debut two years ago has deserted him, with the 22-year-old failing to register a single linebreak in the first seven weeks of the 2019 premiership.
While Hess has been committed in defence, amassing 41 tackles against the Dragons in Round 1, he has failed to run for 100m in a game this season as rival NRL teams look to muzzle the 114kg brute.
When Hess made his Origin breakthrough in 2017, it was the reward for a dangerous offensive approach on the edges which saw him score 13 tries from 27 appearances.
Hess and Kaufusi were Maroons teammates last season, but with Queensland’s No.1 back-rower Gillett back from a neck injury, the 22-year-old concedes he needs to lift to make sure he features in the Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium on June 5.
“For me at the moment, I can’t even worry about playing Origin,” Hess said.
“I need to focus on my club performances and getting wins for the Cowboys, because if you get results at club level, that’s how you get rewarded with rep jumpers.
“In Origin football, it’s not really that flashy. It’s a physical game and usually the guys who do their job the best with the right intensity ensures their team wins the game.
“I need to take that attitude into my football for the Cowboys.
“Even last year, ‘Greeny’ (Cowboys coach Paul Green) said when you are backing-up from Origin, you don’t have to be the best player on the field, you just need to do your job and do the little things well.
“That’s my thinking at the moment.”
While Hess is renowned for his attacking thrust, the Bundaberg product believes he needs to focus on his match involvement and defensive awareness.
“I’m fading in and out of games and not playing to my potential,” he said.
“I need to focus on not trying to do anything special as such. I just need to do my job consistently and make sure the boys can rely on me for the full 80 minutes.
“Running the ball and getting my timing right isolating defenders can improve.
“Defensively, I feel I am reading the game quite well but I need to be a lot more urgent getting back into the line because the four-man defender is a key position in the defensive line.
“We are the link with the pack and the edges, so it’s a tough job.
“My defence goes a long way to our success at the Cowboys.”
Maroons coach Kevin Walters has been concerned with the form of Queensland’s three NRL clubs Brisbane, the Cowboys and Titans.
But he says the next month is a chance for Hess and Maroons colleagues to hit peak form for Origin I.
“There’s a few clubs, and a few of our players, that aren’t where they need to be come Origin time,” he said.
“These are the headaches associated with Origin. We wouldn’t want to be going into Origin I next week. I’d certainly prefer our guys build some form in the coming weeks.
“The form of the Cowboys, Broncos and Titans is a concern. There are certain players in those teams who are performing well, and others not so well.
“Origin is still some weeks away, which is fortunate for us, and I expect that form cycle (of some Queensland players) to be reversed.
“It does give me pleasure that players in key positions are performing well.
“Guys like (Cameron) Munster have been great, and Kalyn Ponga has shifted back to fullback so that is his ideal position.
“It’s great that Kalyn is back there, that helps us.”