Cowboys forward Coen Hess has slimmed down to boost his mobility and is set to draw on the adversity he experienced last year to reignite his career.
The 23-year-old lost his Queensland jersey during an indifferent season where he played a variety of positions including centre.
Hess represented Queensland in 2017 in what was a breakout season where his aggressive ball running and impact, either off the bench or as a starting back-rower, was a feature.
"Looking back on it I am probably disappointed with the year I had. I’d been fortunate with injuries before but I was carrying a few niggles and swapping and changing positions didn’t help either," Hess told NRL.com.
"Coming through I was always in a Cowboys team that was winning so there wasn’t too much pressure on anyone I guess.
"The last two years we have come under the microscope and I guess it flustered me being in an environment I wasn’t really comfortable in, so in that regard last year I probably learned to deal with adversity and learn from that experience."
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Hess said he had been training predominantly as an edge forward, which is his favoured position, but has also been utilised in the middle by coach Paul Green.
Shane Wright and Gavin Cooper finished 2019 as the starting back-rowers and Hess acknowledged it would be up to him, Mitch Dunn and Ben Condon to keep the pressure on.
"Like last year, I will play anywhere Greeny needs me to, but I like to see myself back on the edge and playing 80 minutes that is for sure," Hess said.
“I have lost a substantial amount of weight from last year so mobility-wise I am a lot better. I was probably playing a bit too heavy last year so this year I have focused on slimming down and improving flexibility and that is really helping me with my endurance work as well.”
Hess will join a Queensland camp in Brisbane this weekend as part of a 33-man squad. He played five Origins in 2017-18 on the back of strong form at club level and knows he must start the season with a bang for North Queensland if he hopes to return to the Maroons side.
With club stalwarts Matt Scott and Scott Bolton now retired it is up to Hess to help drive the Cowboys back into finals football for the first time since 2017.
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"They have left big shoes to fill but with those two guys moving on it creates an opportunity for us young guys coming through to really put a stamp on the team," Hess said.
"I've been around for a quite a long time now so it puts more onus on myself to be a bit more of a leader."
Hess will play for the Cowboys for the first time this year in the NRL Nines in Perth on February 14-15.