Brent Tate: Hess is Origin-ready
He is just 20 years of age with only 15 games in the NRL to his name but former Maroons great Brent Tate believes North Queensland powerhouse Coen Hess has shown enough in six weeks to warrant Origin selection this year.
With six weeks now until the first game of the 2017 Origin Series attention has turned to the possible makeup of the two teams with a raft of injuries testing the depth of the Maroons for the first time in a decade.
Incumbents Greg Inglis and Matt Scott will miss the entire season with serious knee injuries, fringe players Dylan Napa and Ben Hunt are both currently sidelined and even the ever durable Johnathan Thurston is out with a calf injury.
Add in the retirement last year of Corey Parker and Queensland coach Kevin Walters is looking at the prospect of introducing a number of new faces, with Tate adamant that Hess should be one of the debutants.
A community ambassador with the Cowboys and commentator with Fox Sports, Tate continues to have very close links with the club and the veteran of 23 Origins for Queensland very much likes what he has seen from Hess to date.
"North Queensland forward Coen Hess is one youngster on the radar of Maroons coach Kevin Walters," Tate writes in this week's issue of Big League.
"The 20-year-old has started the season on a high with six tries from as many games to complement his team-high 30 tackle breaks.
"If Hess is selected to make his Origin debut, he won't look out of place and will rise to the occasion.
"We've seen what he's capable of at club level and he's one of those players who would suit Origin.
"However if the talented young forward misses out this series, it wouldn't be the worst thing for him. He'll have the chance to further develop his game and we'll certainly see him playing for Queensland at some stage in the future."
Since the start of the 2010 Series the Maroons have had Matt Scott in their side in 20 of the 21 Origins played and while he is impossible to replace, Tate believes Queensland have the perfect replacement waiting in the wings.
"We've seen how Scott's ACL injury has affected the Cowboys over the past few weeks and it'll also have an impact on the Maroons," Tate admits.
"At the end of the day you can never replace Scott, but it's going to give someone else an opportunity.
"If Roosters prop Dylan Napa recovers from an ankle injury in time for Origin, it'll be a no-brainer to have him in the Queensland side.
"Napa probably would've played last year if not for suspension and he'll be ready to debut."
The Round 7 issue of Big League featuring stories on the under-rated Dragons forwards, Good Friday's blockbuster between the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs and the top eight rugby league brothers of all time is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.