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Young Cowboys forward Coen Hess.

The 12-hour trip back to Mount Isa was torture if the Cowboys got beaten.

Every year Coen Hess would make the long trip across to Townsville for state junior carnivals with a busload of teammates who were split with regards to whether they barracked for the Cowboys or the Broncos.

For the first time in his young career Hess lines up against the Broncos in the NRL in Friday night's first semi-final at 1300SMILES Stadium but they have already broken his heart plenty of times before.

From the first time he was selected in the Central West representative under-10s team Hess would travel the 900 kilometres to Townsville to test himself against other talented youngsters, the carnival always coinciding with Brisbane's annual trip north.

Now a decade later Hess is the one performing on centre stage and remembers those weeks as the best of the year growing up, even if the bus ride home sometimes came with the pain of having watched his favourite team go down.

"It was pretty miserable. I remember one game they lost and it was a very quiet bus trip home," Hess told

"We used to come over on the bus and usually travel down early in the week, play throughout the week, watch the game that night and usually go home the morning after.

"My memories as a young fella was coming over here, playing at Brothers and on a Saturday or Friday night going over to the stadium and sitting on the hill with my team and watching it.

"Even though it was a 24-hour round trip it was always good just spending time with your mates on a long bus trip, playing and then getting to watch your childhood heroes.

"It was definitely my favourite week of the year."


Indicative of the spirit in which the modern rivalry between the Cowboys and Broncos is played, Hess said even though they caused him some heartache as a youngster, Brisbane remained his second favourite team.

Over the past decade the Cowboys have established themselves as genuine contenders for the title of No.1 team in Queensland and Hess said the chance to participate in the rivalry he grew up watching will be a special moment in just his eighth NRL game.

"The rivalry has always been there. I grew up watching it and as a young fella that was the game I looked forward to watching all year. Now to be a part of it is really special for me and my family," said Hess, who only turned 20 last month.

"Growing up they had Darren Lockyer and all those type of star players so I always saw them as a very good team.

"I guess they were my second favourite team so I didn't really hate them too much. I always used to really enjoy watching both the teams play."

Given a taste of first grade last year and again during the Origin period this season, Hess didn't play consecutive games in the NRL until rounds 24 and 25 and for the meantime he has cemented his position in the team.

A Queensland under-20s and Junior Kangaroos representative last season, the raps on the towering back-rower have been growing for a number of years and he has adapted quickly to the demands of the NRL.

With the guidance of his parents and that of Cowboys coach Paul Green, Hess said it has been easy to remain patient and wait for his opportunity in the top grade.

"As a young bloke you don't really expect to play NRL until later on in your career so for myself I've been very privileged and definitely didn't think I'd be in this position at my current age," said Hess, who has been averaging 46 minutes off the bench the past four weeks.

"My parents always told me not to rush into things and just take things as they come. 'Greeny' has been really big for me.

"He just said to be consistent. He told me that there shouldn't be too much different in a good game and a bad game so just finding those consistent performances and stringing a couple of them together.

"It's definitely very exciting for me. Being a young bloke and getting to play with a few of the game's best is always a bit of a thrill and definitely something that I don't take for granted."



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