Beware the Hess express: Tamou
Former NSW prop James Tamou believes his old Cowboys teammate Coen Hess is the player that will threaten the Blues most in Origin II on Wednesday night.
With 10 tries from 13 appearances this season for the Cowboys, Hess has been a revelation and despite the Maroons hierarchy placing a media ban on the 20-year-old in the lead up to the clash, that hasn't stopped other players in the Telstra Premiership from talking.
Tamou recalled when he first noticed the Mount Isa junior as a teenager in the gym at the Cowboys.
"He was the fastest at the club [last year] and for someone his size that's just unreal to see," Tamou said on Tuesday.
"He was the quickest over 40 metres and at 108 kilos his skinfolds were next to nothing. He was just a freak.
"I don't think it's a fluke he's scored all those tries but rather he's put himself in that position and is too strong to be stopped."
While it may come as a surprise he is rated quicker than the likes of Cowboys youngsters Kalyn Ponga and Gideon Gela-Mosby at the club, the speed of Hess isn't the only thing the Blues should be in fear of, with his size and strength his best asset.
"He got the nickname "Drago" (from Ivan Drago in Rocky IV by Gavin Cooper) because he would just come into the gym and was throwing weights around and it was a sight," Tamou said.
"The size of him freaked me out, he's not as tall [as me] but a bit more muscular. On the fitness testing side he kills it and I heard a story back in 20s that he was just in the gym the whole off-season.
"He's a special talent so while it's a surprise to see him come up [to Origin level], it's not too surprising because you knew what he was capable of."
It has been new territory for Tamou after Blues coach Laurie Daley overlooked him for the first time in three years after the 28-year-old had a slow start to the season since joining the Panthers.
While he admitted his omission hurt initially, he wants to see the Blues win the series as much as anyone that supports them.
"After Game One I was alright with it," Tamou said.
"It's just one of those things where everyone is competing and that will only make the side stronger.
"It's the same with Mez (Trent Merrin) who is the starting Australian lock so it just shows how much depth NSW has.
"What the boys did in the first game was unreal and after that I just wanted them to succeed because they put in for each other and for Laurie.
"I'm happy for them and I hope they get [the series win]."
Like many, Tamou was blown away with the performance of his former front-row partner Andrew Fifita in Game One but said the Blues could ill afford to rely on his skill with Queensland certain to bounce back with a stronger performance.
"Obviously with Game One we heard how the Blues would be all over them but with Queensland's back against the wall, they're very capable of an upset," he said.
"We've all known what he (Fifita) is capable of the last couple of years but he's really seen within himself of what he can do.
"Sometimes he can pull off that play and it's special… he's the X factor.
"The first 10-15 minutes is what I'm looking forward to and after that the smarts will kick in from both sides and they'll be looking to complete and get the ball down the other end."