Why Cronulla always knew their star Valentine Holmes always came back to haunt them

Cronulla dropped rising superstar Valentine Holmes in 2019, giving the green light to his NFL dream where he fell short – with the club saying his return to the NRL would always haunt them as the one that got away.

The Townsville-born star has returned home to sign a major deal with the North Queensland Cowboys after finally being dropped from the New York Jets’ training squad.

Tonight, he returns to Shark Park to face second-placed Cronulla in his first finals game at PointsBet Stadium since leaving the NRL four years ago.

Why Cronulla always knew their star Valentine Holmes always came back to haunt them

Valentine Holmes runs away from Scott Sorenson during round 25 – Holmes scores three tries in Cowboys win

Holmes was a key part of the Sharks’ 2016 premiership-winning maiden side, where he established himself as one of the games best wingers with his deceptive speed and pace.

Ahead of his return, Cronulla officials opened up about his departure from the club that made his debut in 2014.

The 27-year-old informed his management during the 2019 off-season that he wanted out of his contract, which the Sharks initially refused in the belief that he would return home and immediately sign with the Cowboys.

Holmes takes the ball during a round 22 match against the Storm - scored 18 tries in his 2016 premiership year

Holmes takes the ball during a round 22 match against the Storm – scored 18 tries in his 2016 premiership year

However, when Holmes finally informed the club that he was pursuing his NFL dream while still young enough to give it a real crack, he earned his release.

“I wouldn’t let him go without a fight,” former Sharks coach Shane Flanagan told News Corp.

“We certainly didn’t want him to leave, but we understood that he had a dream that he wanted to fulfill and it was probably the right time to do it. It was difficult at the time, but at the end we wished him well and couldn’t help him.

We knew that when he returned to Australia he would probably want to go home [to North Queensland] – and we celebrated his time at the Sharks.’

The speedster was close to a stunning NFL birth with the New York Jets, where he wowed scouts with his acceleration as a kicker.

During his testing, Holmes posted the fastest time of 6.7 seconds in the 2019 combine for the “three-cone drill” – a task that tests players’ acceleration while changing direction.

The Queenslander had a coaching deal worth around $180,000 where he appeared in a couple of warm-up games.

#39 Valentine Holmes in action in a New York Jets preseason game in August 2019

#39 Valentine Holmes in action in a New York Jets preseason game in August 2019

Unfortunately, his dream was put at a crossroads when he was cut by the franchise at the end of the year, meaning he would have to try again in 2020 as a free agent or luck into the International Pathways program.

When Holmes returned to Australia, the Cowboys signed him to a six-year, $5 million contract that expires in 2025.

Sharks captain Wade Graham said at the time he believed Holmes’ exit was handled “in the wrong way”, leaving the club with a big salary to pay.

This led to the signing of Kiwi international Shaun Johnson on a three-year deal, but he failed to make the sack.

Holmes celebrates a try with Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater - the two have combined for a number of tries this year

Holmes celebrates a try with Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater – the two have combined for a number of tries this year

Flanagan said he was surprised Holmes made a switch to centre, but said his form was more than enough to justify the switch.

“I always knew he would come back and be just as good a player, he just needed to get his aerobic fitness and body back into NRL footy shape. He was great,” the 56-year-old said.

Holmes will need to step up offensively and defensively on Saturday night, tasked with shutting down power package Jesse Ramien.

Fellow Sharks center Siosifa Talakai has been cleared to play after suffering an ankle sprain in a dropped hip tackle.

Holmes has scored 10 tries on the year, which included a hat-trick against the Panthers last week.

Leave a Comment