Can Titans wildman take down thoroughbred Hess?
Gold Coast Titans hitman Keegan Hipgrave has put his concussion battle behind him and is ready to take on North Queensland "Thoroughbred" Coen Hess.
Hipgrave will make his return from a 355-day concussion battle when the Titans take on the Cowboys at QCB Stadium tomorrow (Friday) night.
Hipgrave has not played a game since suffering a third concussion in a short time frame on June 9 last year.
The 23-year-old's last game was the Titans' Round 13 clash against the Broncos, with the fiery forward ruled out for the remainder of the season to undergo neurological testing.
That was the last time the Titans tasted victory, with the club currently on a 13-game losing streak, albeit after this year's season was suspended for two months due to COVID-19.
The Titans will be hoping Hipgrave is their lucky charm after the Gold Coast junior received a clearance from doctors to return to action.
"I'm so excited to play, it's been a while for me to get back on the field," Hipgrave said.
"I got the tick of approval a while back and had to work through contact progressions. I've been in full contact for a number of months now so I'm really confident.
"It was more frustrating than anything. The only thing I wanted to do was get back on the field.
"I had the mindset that I was always going to come back. I've been nothing but confident the last couple of months."
Hipgrave will have a tough test in his return to the NRL.
He will start in the back-row after Bryce Cartwright was dropped and confront Cowboys wrecking ball Hess on his edge.
A self-confessed gym junkie, Hess has earned the nickname "The Thoroughbred" from Cowboys teammate Jordan McLean after returning from the two-month break in fantastic shape.
"I've been calling him 'The Thoroughbred' lately because he's looking that trim and fit and has got veins coming out everywhere," McLean said.
"He came back in great shape from the break. He's probably at the peak of where his body can go and hopefully he can transfer that onto the field."
Bringing down Hess at his best is a challenge, but Hipgrave said he was ready to take him on in his return to the NRL.
"Coen is a really good player," Hipgrave said.
"We're going to have to have a really good defensive game with Hess and (Esan) Marsters on our edge.
"I played juniors with Coen and it will be a good match-up. He is a quality player.
"He is a big boy, but if we stick to our defensive principles we will be fine."
Hess looked in great touch at the Perth Nines and scored a try in North Queensland's Round 2 win against the Bulldogs.
Hess said he was expecting Hipgrave to be handful despite being out of the game for nearly a year.
"I played a lot of footy with and against Keegan," Hess said.
"He is an aggressive player who will come at you all day.
"It will be a really good match-up there. I enjoy playing against him."
Originally published as Can Titans wildman take down thoroughbred Hess?