Eight matches – and just two starts – into his NRL career, North Queensland youngster Coen Hess has been hailed as a future representative star by rugby league great Petero Civoniceva.
The Cowboys’ title defence appeared to take a hit when form backrower Ethan Lowe (neck) was ruled out for the rest of the season ahead of their sudden death semi-final.
However, Hess – who turned 20 just last month – stepped up to amass 188m, 29 tackles and score a stunning first half try in North Queensland’s extra-time 26-20 win over Brisbane last Friday night.
It marked just the second start for the 110kg, 190cm backrower in seven matches this year after a 2015 debut as a teenager.
But Civoniceva already had the young Queenslander lined up for State of Origin duty.
“What a player,” he told AAP.
“I was sitting back watching him thinking ‘this guy has got a massive future’.
“He wasn’t waiting for the game to come to him, he was chasing the game which is a great sign for a young guy new in his career.
“He has all the attributes to have a successful NRL career and hopefully representative career.”
Cowboys coach Paul Green admitted Hess had enjoyed his start – and was hungry for more ahead of Friday night’s NRL preliminary final against Cronulla at Allianz Stadium.
“He was close to one of our best players last week,” he said.
“I think he enjoyed the game and wants a bit more of it.”
Civoniceva – who enjoyed a 15 season career before retiring at 36 – was in awe of Hess’ composure at such a young age.
“It speaks volumes of the system they have up there in North Queensland,” he said.
“He is a young man but is a ready made first grader.
“I remember being at that age and I was just hopeful of playing well but these young guys these days are just on another level.
“They are not there to make up the numbers, they are backing themselves.
“It’s a seamless transition to first grade – that’s the most impressive thing.”