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North Queensland forward Coen Hess believes new recruit James Tamou is “back where he belongs” with the veteran prop set to take his career full circle in 2023.

The two hard-running middle forwards will be looking forward to reuniting in the upcoming NRL Telstra Premiership season after the former Australian representative prop announced he would finish his decorated NRL career with the club which handed him his debut 14 years ago.

Reflecting on his formative years as a Cowboy, 26-year-old Hess said Tamou was an important mentor when he burst onto the NRL scene in 2015 and believes the former Wests Tigers captain can help lead the next generation of aspiring rugby league players in North Queensland.

“I have a past with Jimmy (Tamou) and I’m so glad to see him back. I’ve always seen him as a Cowboy and he really fits in among the group, so in my eyes, he’s back where he belongs," Hess told the media during pre-season training.

Tamou during Cowboys' pre-season training.
Tamou during Cowboys' pre-season training.

“He’s another old, experienced head. That helped us last year with 'Pet' (Hiku) and Chaddy (Townsend) bringing a lot of experience to the group and Jimmy is that calibre of player as well.

“He’s been around for a long time and has seen pretty much everything there is to see in the game so to have another guy like that around the club is great.

“Mentoring the younger guys and even guys like myself, we can always pick his brain.”

After the Bundaberg product spearheaded his side to a remarkable turnaround in 2022, where the Cowboys came just one game short of the grand final, Hess said this year’s focus has been on broadening his skillset as a forward.

Hess muscles his way over

After starting his career in the backrow, he may also find himself back there to begin the 2023 season following the departures of Tom Gilbert (Dolphins) and Ben Condon (Sea Eagles), and with Heilum Luki (knee) and Luciano Leilua (stood down) unavailable for Round 1.

“I’m actually doing a bit of both (front row and second row training). We’ve got a few backrowers missing for different reasons so it’s about being a bit more versatile,” he said.

“I had a whole pre-season at front row last year, so I feel comfortable in that role but it’s more just about getting familiar in the back row if so happens that I have to play there for a little bit.

“The NRL season is a bit longer this year and you never know what’s going to happen with injuries so pre-season is a good opportunity to get a few reps in everywhere.”

A proud one-club-man, Hess has capped 141 games for North Queensland and said he hopes to learn from experienced leaders such as Tamou to “be more of a voice” around the club in 2023.

“I see myself a bit more as a leader now and I want to be there for the younger guys if they ever need anything or if I see anything they might be lacking around the club,” he said.

“I feel like I am probably in a position to pick guys up on those sorts of things.

"I really want to buy into the culture and set the standards that the coaches and we as players want to hold up.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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