Over the past fortnight, Cowboys premiership winning coach Paul Green has copped criticism by declaring forward prodigy Coen Hess, not ready for the demands of State of Origin football.
In what’s to be another unpopular opinion, I share these same beliefs.
Hess is only 20 years of age and has played just 22-first-grade-games. Struggling for consistency in his game at NRL level, this coupled with his age and limited experience in first grade is only expected at this stage of his career.
To throw him into the Origin arena next Wednesday night would be too great a risk for Kevin Walters to take.
Although there are no denying Hess’ talents, the 110kg Dolph Lundgren doppelganger averages a tick under 100 metres a game and sits near the top of the try-scorers list this season with 10 tries in 13 games.
The main concern for Hess is largely his defensive game. Hess has been caught out of position on a number of occasions this season whilst defending on the right edge, so much so that he’s been moved into the front row over the past fortnight of football.
Hess has missed 15 tackles this season defending on the fringes of the North Queensland forward pack – as well as a number of poor defensive reads – while missing just three defending in the middle.
Another issue in Hess’ game is consistency or lack thereof. Hess will unleash on the oppositions defensive line before his powerful running game disappears the next. In the seven games Hess has scored one or more tries a game in this season, he has averaged 120 metres. This is compared to the 79 metres a game in the six matches this season where he hasn’t scored a try.
Alarmingly the buck doesn’t stop here. In the seven games this season where Hess has scored one or more tries, he has recorded 27 tackle breaks and made just three errors. This is compared to a measly eight tackle breaks and six errors.
At just 20 years of age and yet to have a full season of NRL experience under his belt, Paul Green has every right to protect Hess from the demands of Origin football. In an interview with Fox Sports last week, Hess himself stated he wasn’t ready for Origin football.
If not Hess then who? Look no further than his North Queensland teammates Ethan Lowe and Gavin Cooper. Cooper had a taste of Origin football last season, scoring a barnstorming try and was among the Maroons best.
Also in Coopers favour is his combination with Maroons halfback Johnathan Thurston. During their seven years on the left edge together for the Cowboys, the duo has been involved in over 70 tries for the club. Cooper is very smart defensively and has served as Thurston’s protector for close to a decade now, much like Tonie Carroll was for Darren Lockyer.
Ethan Lowe has waited close to three seasons for an Origin call-up. The forward has the ability to play on an edge and in the middle as-well as kick goals if needed. The premiership winner averages 120 metres and 25 tackles a game this season, despite playing with a serious nerve injury. Queensland could do a lot worse than the 26-year-old.
Will Coen Hess be named in the Queensland Maroons side for Game II? We will find out Today when team lists are unveiled on NRL.com at 1:00pm