While most Cowboys will be in unfamiliar territory during Sunday’s clash at Bundaberg’s Salter Oval, forward Coen Hess will be right at home.
The Bulldogs and Cowboys will both travel more than 1000km this week to bring the first ever NRL game to the Queensland coastal city, but Hess will be playing in front of a ‘home crowd’.
Born in Bundaberg, the Townsville second rower will be expecting just “a few proud Hess”” among the crowd on Sunday with his younger brother set to feature in the local derby curtain-raiser.
“Funnily enough my little brother is playing a semi-final before us so it’ll be a good occasion for the family,” Hess told NRL.com after Sunday’s win over the Dragons.
“I played my first year of rugby league for The Waves Junior Rugby League Club before we moved to Mt Isa when I was eight.
“Salter Oval is where my dad played all of his football career and why I play rugby league is following in my dad’s footsteps so I’m sure there will be a few proud Hess’ there on Sunday.”
With a carnival atmosphere guaranteed to bring the country oval alive on Sunday, the Queensland origin representative is expecting to hear a familiar voice among the Cowboys supporters.
“My nan has been a diehard Cowboys supporter even before I started playing for the club so she has been excited for this weekend for a long time,” he said.
“My little brother actually lives with my nan in Bundaberg and I know she’s pretty proud of us.
“She comes up occasionally to Townsville and has been there for a few origin games as well. She’s a wonderful lady and she’ll probably be the loudest supporter there which is usually the case.”
With the likes of Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton also set to descend on country soil, Hess is prepared for a tough match against the in-form Bulldogs who will be looking to cause a few more upsets in the final rounds of the Telstra Premiership regular season.
“I’m expecting a really big game, they’re obviously playing a really good brand of footy at the moment,” he said.
“They’ve got some big boys through the middle who are really destructive and they can offload to some pretty impressive young outside backs as well.
“We’re under no illusion that they’re on the bottom of the ladder but the way they’re playing at the moment suggests that they’re a really good side.”
With the Cowboys currently sitting second on the ladder with five weeks until finals, the 25-year-old forward said he hopes the Round 21 clash will help promote the game where his own rugby league journey began.
Match Highlights: Dragons v Cowboys
“It’s not only huge for the town to host these games but it’s really good for the game as well, taking it to these smaller communities,” he said.
“I love it, I think building the game in those regional communities is a great idea and you can see it means the world to them as well so I think it’s just great for everyone involved.
“I get back there every second Christmas, nan and my uncle usually fly up to us and then we return the favor every other Christmas and it’s always a great trip to Bundaberg.”