North Queensland Toyota Cowboys veteran and Maroons player Gavin Cooper said he will continue to mentor upcoming fellow backrower Coen Hess following the blond behemoth’s selection in the 2017 Emerging Origin Squad.
Hess, 20, was one of four Cowboys players selected in the annual squad, which aims to identify future Queensland State of Origin players.
Hess and team-mates Kyle Feldt, Ethan Lowe and Jake Granville will attend the Emerging Origin camp in Brisbane in late January.
Cooper – who made his Origin debut in Game III of this year’s series – said Hess was a “good kid” and a “monster”, adding the former Cowboys Under 20s star deserved his place in the January camp based on what he has already delivered at NRL level and on potential.
Hess made his National Rugby League debut as a 19-year-old against the Warriors at the end of the 2015 season, and went on this end to play eight more games over the back half of the 2016 season. He is now a member of the full-time Cowboys NRL squad.
“Hessy’s really level headed. He takes on whatever I’ve got something to say to him. He really listens,” Cooper said of the Mount Isa junior.
“I think him having the end of the last season that he did should be really good for his confidence.
“He’s been a big kid since he was four and didn’t look out of place last year in first grade at all - in fact he was probably one of our best last year when he played in those last handful of games.”
Cooper said although he has been taking more of a back seat during pre-season training as he encourages his younger team-mates to find their voice, he would continue to offer Hess advice on his game.
“If I see something I’m going to tell him and that’s what a couple of older guys did to me when I was coming through, so I’d like to help out in that regard too,” Cooper said.
“Hessy’s a big kid and he’s got no problems monstering his way around the park; I guess now the challenge is getting him to see the game a bit better or think a bit quicker.”
Cowboys assistant coach David Fairleigh said the selection of the four Cowboys in the Emerging Origin squad was a fillip for the Cowboys and Maroons programs.
“The production line of talent continues up here in Townsville and Queensland in particular,” Fairleigh said as the Cowboys ended their second last full week of pre-season before a short Christmas-New Year break.
“They’ve had a great Emerging Origin program for a long time and the club’s well represented and everyone’s selection this year is well deserved.
“Feldty may have been a bit unlucky not to have already played Origin but I’m sure all of those players will get their chance one day.”
Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters welcomed the Emerging Origin class of 2017.
“The pathway programs we have available through the Queensland Academy of Sport are second to none and this is another fantastic opportunity to look at the next generation of players coming through,” he said.
“This year we saw Corey Oates and Justin O’Neill grab their opportunity at Origin level and I’m sure there will be other players from this program who will make a strong case for selection in 2017.”