Bundaberg-born Queensland under-16 representative Coen Hess in action for Townsville Stingers.
Bundaberg-born Queensland under-16 representative Coen Hess in action for Townsville Stingers. Contributed

New Bundy Maroon

THERE will be a dual local connection on the State of Origin program in Melbourne tonight.

As well as Bundaberg-born Mal Meninga chasing a seventh straight series win as Maroons' coach, Bundaberg-born and bred Coen Hess will suit up for the Queensland under-16s who play New South Wales in the curtain-raiser.

The son of former Bundaberg league star Warren Hess and his wife Debbie is now a Year 11 student at Townsville's rugby league powerhouse Ignatius Park College.

But he spent the first eight years of his life in Bundaberg, attending St Joseph's Catholic School up to Year 3 and starting his fledgling rugby league career with the Across The Waves club under coaches Ivan Groves and Ricky Savidge.

But his policeman father Warren was transferred to Mt Isa eight years ago, and Coen played there up until taking up a North Queensland Cowboys scholarship this year.

But he still has plenty of relatives in Bundaberg including grandparents Dick and Liz Hess, Alan Shaw and Amy Cummings.

Speaking before flying to Melbourne yesterday for the game, a proud Warren said his father and brother-in-law Scott Shaw would also be there to cheer him on.

Hess was a high-quality hooker who was a copybook defender and was well known for his ability to pilfer tries from dummy-half and he was permanent fixture in Wide Bay Bulls senior teams for years, but he said Coen was a different mould of a player

"Coen is a second-rower - he won't be 16 until August but he's already six-foot two (1.8m) and 92kg - he made the Queensland Outback side last year and the Queensland President's XIII, but he's really kicked goals ever since he left the Isa," he said.

"He motors too and is just a good all-round sportsman - he will also play at the Confraternity Carnival next month and he hopes to eventually get a Cowboys' Youth League contract."

Coen earned his state debut with his performances for Townsville Stingers, who qualified for the U-16 Cyril Connell Cup final before being beaten by South Logan Magpies 10-6.