Electric Holmes rams home value with starring role for Sharks
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Electric Holmes rams home value with starring role for Sharks

Ask Shane Flanagan just how determined Cronulla are to keep Valentine Holmes in the Sutherland Shire and he is straight to the point.

“We’ll sell one floor of the leagues club if we have to,” the Sharks coach said on Sunday.

On fire: Valentine Holmes cracked 20 tries for the season with a four-pointer against the Knights on Sunday.

On fire: Valentine Holmes cracked 20 tries for the season with a four-pointer against the Knights on Sunday.Credit:AAP

If only they could flog the King Wan, the Chinese restaurant inside Sharkies Leagues, and use the proceeds to lock down their star fullback, who is the focus of intense interest from North Queensland. Unfortunately, there is a thing called the NRL salary cap that presents a small problem with that idea.

In terms of where Holmes ends up, there are other factors at play beyond cash, too. Holmes and his partner are from Townsville and his family live there.

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But if the Sharks needed any other reason to open the chequebook and plead with him to stay, then he provided it in spectacular fashion against Newcastle at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

With a quarter of the game remaining Cronulla led 18-12, having not been entirely convincing despite a few successful attacking excursions down the flanks.

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Cue Holmes to set the break the game open in electrifying style. Set free by No.7 Chad Townsend, he hit the after burners at the 30-metre mark and a right-foot step at full speed left young Knights fullback Nick Meaney with no chance.

Twenty minutes later and the Sharks had laid on a further two tries to pull away, with Newcastle-bound Edrick Lee completing a double and Townsend finishing off some champagne rugby league when he latched onto an adventurous banana kick from winger Sosaia Feki.

It was Holmes, though, who landed the blow that broke the visitors, whose own brilliant No.1 Kalyn Ponga was in a moon boot and sidelined.

The try was his 20th of the season, a new club record, erasing the one he had previously shared with David Peachey.

“It’s obvious an honour,” the softly spoken Holmes said of the fresh mark. “ To surpass Peachey is something special. Hopefully no one can beat me in a while. I want to hold the record like Peachey did.”

It will take some topping, particularly with the season not yet over. Cronulla’s hope is that it is the 23-year-old himself who can go past it in coming years.

The issue is keeping him in black, white and blue. Holmes is going nowhere immediately. He is on contract until 2020 but the final year of his deal is an option in his favour, meaning if the Cowboys get their man he could head north at the end of next season.

If Flanagan has any say on the matter, that won’t be happening.

“My word, we want him to stay here,” the coach said. “You saw what he did today. He’s a superstar. I want to keep him here long term. I know the club is doing everything we can to keep him here.

“It’s the No.1 priority. He can break a game open. He’s just got confidence he’s got that swagger and belief.”

Put it to the Queensland and Kangaroos flyer and he’s naturally not giving a lot away, but his answer won’t douse the speculation that he will eventually leave Sydney and return home.

“I’ve been here since I was 17 ... I played SG Ball and that. It’s been an awesome club, they’ve given me a massive opportunity,” Holmes said. "I've still got another year. We'll see how we go."

First, there is the assignment of trying to win Cronulla’s second premiership in three years.
Flanagan described his side’s win – their third in a row, which elevated them to fourth on the NRL ladder, as patchy.

But with weapons across the park they are shaping as genuine contenders. Aside from Holmes, an offloading Aaron Woods continued to impress on Sunday, Andrew Fifita pretended he was a halfback with a deft runaround play that led to a try, Josh Dugan was on his game at centre, and Wade Graham was his typical hard and creative self. And there is still Matt Moylan to come back.

Plus, as Newcastle coach Nathan Brown points out, Paul Gallen’s Sharks are the most match-hardened, wily line-up in the league.

“The thing with Cronulla is there are going to be eight sides in the finals and they’re going to think they can win it,” Brown said. “Not all the sides think that.”