Powerhouse Cowboys forward Coen Hess is set to run out at Townsville's new stadium as a footballer reborn.
After a boom pre-season and dynamic performance at the NRL Nines, the 23-year-old Hess is primed to give Jason Taumalolo the help he needs up front in the round one clash with the Broncos.
Last year Hess copped plenty of flak for not using his giant frame to his advantage and he lost his Maroons jersey and played several games in the centres.
That did not sit well with Hess and he has responded with character.
"I think the first thing with Coen is that he copped a fair bit of criticism and it stung him," Cowboys coach Paul Green said at the Courier Mail's NRL season launch.
"He's gone about this pre-season different to what he has other pre-seasons and he is probably in the best condition I've seen him in since I've coached him.
"He is a bit lighter and is fairly determined and committed to making sure he puts his best foot forward. He's started the season well so hopefully he can build on that."
Hess hoping for more ‘meat pies’ on day two
The other advantage of Hess rediscovering his mojo is that in the wake of the retirements of Matt Scott and Scott Bolton the Cowboys can also utilise him in the middle as well as his favoured position on an edge.
"The beauty with him is that you can play him both. I think his best position is on an edge and he'll probably end up there at some stage," Green said.
The Cowboys coach revealed he had taken a lot of positives out of the NRL Nines triumph and trial games but was not prepared to give away whether Scott Drinkwater or Jake Clifford would wear the No.6 jersey against the Broncos in round one.
"I'm not sure," he quipped.
"I haven't been back to Townsville since our trial [against Melbourne] so we've got to sit down and pull the game apart and see what we think our best 17 is to go into that Broncos game."
Drinkwater sat out the Storm trial with what Green said was "a slight strain" after starring at the NRL Nines where he was player of the tournament.
The former Australian Schoolboy half has a swagger about him and is taking that on to the field.
"Not that he lacked confidence, because if you know 'Drinky' that is one thing he doesn't lack, but he has taken that into his game and is prepared to back himself," Green said.
"He really took the Nines by the scruff of the neck and backed himself."
The expectation ahead of the Cowboys' first game at their new Queensland Country Bank Stadium on March 13 is building and Green said the players had a real privilege to be the first to run out in an NRL game.
"It is huge, not just for us as the Cowboys, but for the city as well," Green said.
"1300 Smiles was our home and we've looked at the history and what people went through to get that up and running, so we've got to realise the honour and privilege we have now so the people in 25 years time look back at this season and round one, and talk about it the right way.
"Our games [with the Broncos] are close contests and good matches historically but for us it is about us getting off to a good start with how we play."
To add to the excitement, Townsville-raised Valentine Holmes will also get to play his first NRL game since 2018.
"We have always said that is our charter, to try and provide a pathway for local kids to play NRL and I probably underestimated the impact Val has had since he came back," Green said.
"The interest has been enormous and that is only good for us and the club. He has handled it professionally and kept his head down, his feet on the ground and has trained hard.
"He is a real pro and that is certainly one of the things he has brought back from the NFL."