Rugby league is celebrating Valentine Holmes’ return to Australia but not everyone in NRL land will be thrilled to see the 24-year-old back in action.
Holmes was cut from the New York Jets’ practice squad on the weekend, officially ending his NFL experiment, and on Sunday he inked a six-year deal with the North Queensland Cowboys worth a reported $5.7 million.
The NRL will be happy to see Holmes return given his star-appeal but each try he scores for his new club will be like a dagger into the broken hearts of Sharks supporters who were left high and dry by the winger’s American expedition.
Holmes was under contract with Cronulla for another season when he walked out on the game in 2018, angering fans and teammates alike. Captain Paul Gallen was especially vocal in criticising Holmes for the manner of his exit, accusing him of “letting the club down”.
It’s why amid all the hype around Holmes’ comeback, Channel 9 reporter Danny Weidler says Sharks fans are entitled to be bitter.
“Cronulla fans, they’re the real losers out of this aren’t they,” Weidler said on the Big Sports Breakfast.
“They had a superstar player and he basically decided overnight he wanted to give another sport a try. He doesn’t achieve everything he wants to achieve and he comes back to another club.
“They’re the real victims of what Valentine Holmes has done. I don’t think they’ve really replaced him properly yet at the club.”
Holmes established himself as a try-scoring sensation on the wing for Cronulla, scoring 66 four-pointers in 105 appearances for the club. He quickly became a representative star for Queensland and the Kangaroos, scoring eight tries in five outings for the Maroons and 17 tries in 13 games wearing the green and gold.
But in his last year in the NRL there was talk he wanted to play as a full-time fullback rather than on the wing — an opportunity he received more and more regularly with the Sharks — and was keen to return to his hometown of Townsville.
It was also reported if Cronulla tried to block Holmes from pursuing his NFL dream, he would consider sitting out the season.
So you can understand if Holmes doesn’t exactly receive a warm welcome next time the Cowboys make a trip to the Sydney Shire.
Cowboys fans will be hoping Holmes keeps crossing the stripe for them.Source:AAP
Holmes’ wish to play fullback will likely be granted by the Cowboys, who signed him over Latrell Mitchell. Roosters premiership-winner Mitchell is on the lookout for a new club after the tri-colours withdrew their $1.6 million, two-year offer and the 22-year-old recently met with Cowboys officials over a possible move to North Queensland.
But the club only had enough salary cap space to fit one of those two marquee men and the Cowboys finally secured their main target, who they’ve been chasing for quite some time and keeping a close eye on while he was Stateside.
Holmes said it was a tough decision to leave New York but doesn’t regret making the move, and always entertained the thought of continuing his NRL career in his native Queensland.
“It was a quite difficult decision (to leave the Jets). I made big sacrifices on the decision going over,” he said,
“I don’t have any regrets on the decision going over. I learned a lot as a person and as an athlete … I was more just out there to explore things.
“Since I was off-contract with the Sharks there was interest from the Cowboys.
“I was always intrigued about going home and starting my life again here.”
Jarryd Hayne couldn’t replicate his early on-field heroics when he returned to rugby league after his stint with the San Francisco 49ers, but Holmes isn’t worried he’ll suffer the same fate.
Hayne was never the same player after his NFL effort but Holmes is confident it won’t take long before he’s back to his best.
He also said he’s keen to play fullback but will do whatever is best for the team.
“That’s where I played a couple of years ago so wherever I fit best in this team, I’ll be happy to play,” Holmes said.
“To show that faith in me is awesome and I will try to show it back when I play — I am here to win, that is what my mindset is going to be.
“I don’t really feel pressure in anything I’m doing.”
“I’m pretty confident in myself … I kept in shape as much as I could over there and I’m not too worried about how I’m going to go.”
Holmes put on a handful of kilos as the result of a different training program at the Jets, which was more focused on lifting weights. He said he feels “a bit stronger and a bit faster” but knows he needs to work on his fitness and stamina as he becomes re-acquainted with the 13-a-side code.
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