In 2015, Coen Hess was pulling beers behind the bar at Brothers Leagues Club in Townsville, watching North Queensland's drive to their maiden NRL premiership.

This year he's pulling massive numbers and has emerged as a driving forced behind their unlikely title tilt.

Having made his Queensland State of Origin debut and with the Cowboys just one victory away from a grand final berth few saw coming even a fortnight ago, the 21-year-old Mount Isa product admits he's often had to pinch himself in 2017.

"Through our pre-season I actually had the mindset of getting a spot on the bench for the Cowboys," Hess told AAP.

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"It's been crazy how it's come about and all the hard work from not only myself, but my family and everyone along the way, has really paid off. I'm really fortunate."

After making his NRL debut late in 2015, he was only elevated to the Cowboys' top 25 in January last year.

Before that, like every player in an NRL junior system, the 110kg forward was required to work or study in order to be allowed to run out for the Cowboys' under-20s.

Up until a year-and-a-half ago he worked part-time in the bustling Brothers Leagues Club - near the 1300SMILES Stadium.

"I was working there three or four hours a day then I'd train, either with the 20s, or if I got called up to the NRL side," Hess said.

"Looking back now, that was only 18 months ago. It's been pretty crazy."

His emergence from glassie to game-breaker has been extraordinary.

Hess has made 104 metres per game this year despite averaging 57 minutes and making 18 of his 25 club appearances off the bench.

With Matt Scott out injured and Ben Hannant having retired, he's helped fill the void in the Cowboys' engine room.

"Before a game was pretty big at Brothers because it's so close to the stadium. And if I was working, sometimes I was lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of it on the TV," Hess said.

"To be here now is pretty special."

- AAP