Cowboys keep blinkers on for Penrith clash
Preparing for an epic battle against Penrith, North Queensland are keeping the blinkers on rather than worrying about what the premiers may throw at them.
The Cowboys head to BlueBet Stadium on Friday night riding high after six successive wins to move to third on the ladder, while the front-running Panthers have back-to-back NRL premierships firmly in sight.
Coen Hess has been tasked with replacing injured superstar lock Jason Taumalolo while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has come in for Kyle Feldt, who also has a knee injury.
The pair went down early in North Queensland's statement win over fellow heavyweights Melbourne last round.
Hess has been playing mostly as a front-rower this season but said he wouldn't try to change too much at lock.
"It will be no different for me personally, whether it's eight, 10 or 13 on my back it doesn't really change my role too much," Hess said on Tuesday.
"We've got a tough task ahead of us this week in the forward pack."
Hess said they would try to focus more on themselves than on their opponents after finding success in the method last round against the Storm.
He felt that had previously brought them undone.
"I remember when we versed the Roosters (in round four), we were more worried about them where as going into the Melbourne game last week, we just focused on us and what we need to do well and executed that," the 25-year-old said.
"There will probably be a similar thing going into the Panthers game.
"We know what they can do - they've got strike power all over the field and if you focus on too many of their players, you get caught up in what you're doing."
The Cowboys' ladder surge has as many as 10 players in the mix for State of Origin selection, including Hess, whose last of six appearances came in 2020.
Reuben Cotter, who will start in the front row against Penrith, and second-rower Jeremiah Nanai have reportedly caught the eye of new Queensland coach Billy Slater.
"The club's in a really fortunate position, I think we're going so well that heaps of names are getting thrown into the hat which is really exciting," Hess said.
"The way that I got selected in the past was just worrying about club form and playing well so that's where my head space is at.
"Having had experience if I was lucky enough to get selected I'd be more than comfortable doing my job."
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