Origin is widely regarded as the fiercest a rivalry can get in a two-horse race – but is it a patch on what a two-team town can produce?
Coen Hess is Bundaberg-born and now based in Townsville but he grew up in Mount Isa where his love of rugby league was nurtured.
But given the difficulty for clubs in the town to attract players – Hess was forced to play the same opposition week-in, week-out as, for a time, there were only two teams in his competition.
“I played my first year of footy in Bundaberg ... Under 8s for Across the Waves,” the Cowboys backrower told QRL Media.
“Dad was a police officer, so he got posted out to Mount Isa where I continued to play footy and I think that is where my love of rugby league really started.
“My first year was for Townies Rugby League and then they folded and Dad was the president of the Black Stars and I sort of got forced to play for them,” Hess laughed. “(I) ended up playing for them right up until I left.
“There were only two teams actually for most of my juniors’ years; so you played each other every week and then the last game of the year we considered a grand final.
“So it was pretty easy to make the grand final back then and you sort of knew exactly what was coming from the other team because you had played them 15 or so times before that.”
- Before he was selected to play Origin for Queensland last year, Hess spoke to NRL.com about his junior rivalry in Mount Isa
The Hess family were like so many that make the game what it is – putting in the hours as volunteers at their local league club to ensure those who loved the game had the chance to play.
As president of the club, Warren Hess was tasked with performing a few roles and made sure his family were on hand to help out as well.
“He’d referee, Mum and my sister would help out at the canteen, I’d go down and help set up the field and put the corner posts in and put the post pads on and things like that,” Hess said of his family’s involvement in junior rugby league.
“There were a lot of families like us that basically everyone in the whole family had a job and it was a nice little close-knit group that we had that helped out.”
Now in his second year as part of the Queensland Maroons line-up, Hess has found a home in the NRL with the NQ Cowboys; but initially moved to Townsville following a suggestion from then QRL Development Officer in Mount Isa, Scott Kyle, who knew Ignatius Park school teacher Dave Elliott and they were able to line him up with a club.
“I played for Brothers in junior grades and made my A Grade debut there as well and then playing schoolboy footy and I got picked up by the (Townsville) Stingers and ... (after I played) a few games for the Stingers ... I signed a scholarship for the Cowboys,” Hess said.
Although his journey to the top has not quite been a simple straight line of success – he’s had his fair share of ups and downs – Hess said he hoped his journey could help inspire others, no matter which part of the state they were from.
Coen Hess is also a QPS and QRL Junior Outback Muster ambassador (carnival promotional video below).
QPS and QRL Junior Outback Muster promo
“I think when I was younger, I sort of fell into the trap where coming from Mount Isa I didn’t really dare to dream, I didn’t really picture myself in the position I am today," Hess said.
“(But) there’s always those little things of fate where she’s meant to happen, so no matter what, just keep trying and if it’s meant to happen, it’s meant to happen.”