VALENTINE Holmes has issued an ominous warning to the Blues, admitting rugby league hasn’t seen the best of him as the Queensland flyer looks to make a sizzling return to the Origin arena this season.
After a 12-month absence from the game in his ultimately futile bid to win an NFL contract in America, Holmes made his return to the NRL in North Queensland’s 28-21 loss to the Broncos in the 2020 premiership opener.
It was a mixed debut in Cowboys colours for Holmes.
Playing fullback, he dropped a towering bomb from Anthony Milford and then conceded a try with some sloppy marker defence.
But Holmes quickly atoned, scoring the Cowboys’ opening try in the 15th minute when he chimed in on a back-man play and used his speed to cross in the corner.
Before his departure for America, Holmes was one of the NRL’s superstars and among Queensland’s most lethal attackers.
He scored 66 tries in 105 games for the Sharks and incredibly, has never failed to score for Queensland in five fixtures – including a hat-trick in just his second match for the Maroons.
Holmes accepts it will take time for him to regain his feel for rugby league at the top level, but insists the code has not seen the best of him.
That is a compelling assessment as Holmes keeps one eye on terrorising the Blues in the Origin series opener at Adelaide Oval on June 3.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and rugby league fans everywhere remain hopeful the coronavirus pandemic can pass in time for Holmes and the rest of the Maroons to feature in the 2020 series.
“I think I haven’t produced my best in the game,” Holmes said.
“Coming back to rugby league, I can get better.
“In the past, I have had some great games, but I haven’t been as consistently good as I would like to be.
“When the game is on the line, I want to be the guy that decides the result.
“That’s what halves and fullbacks should aspire to be. I want to be better at being a match-winner for the Cowboys and that’s my aim this season.”
If he stays fit, Holmes will be a shoo-in for the Maroons.
The question is where to play him.
While Holmes has scored eight tries in five Origin games on the wing since his 2017 debut, the Cowboys flyer prefers the fullback spot and believes that is his best position.
However, Holmes says he won’t be making demands about which position he must play for the Maroons, admitting Kalyn Ponga and Cameron Munster have the jump on him for the Queensland No.1 jumper.
“I would love to make the Queensland team,” he said.
“But to start off with, it doesn’t bother me where I play. We’ve got a lot of options with ‘KP’ (Ponga) and Cam Munster, so there’s a few guys who are ahead of me at the moment.
“If I start playing well and I feel confident with how I’m going then, yes sure, I will push for rep levels, but as we know there are a lot of great fullbacks in the game.
“It’s good healthy competition for everyone. As long as I am playing well for the Cowboys first, then hopefully I’m putting my best foot forward to be picked for the Maroons.”
Holmes looked sharp at times against the Broncos and says the different training methods in the NFL has not affected his speed.
“I’d say my speed is the same as when I left,” he said.
“I haven’t really opened up at training, but I don’t feel I have slowed down. I have put on a kilo or two, so I’m a bit bigger physically. But we will soon see how my speed goes in the NRL.”
Despite failing to crack the NFL, the 24-year-old said other NRL players should not be turned off trying their luck in America if they are keen to test their ability in American Football.
“It is certainly hard to make it over there,” he said.
“It depends on what pathway you take. Jarryd Hayne and myself were on totally different pathways and we had different opportunities over there.
“It depends how young you are and what position you want to go over for.
“For skilled players, it’s harder to make it than it is for a huge guy like Jordan Mailata (former Souths under-20s player who is now with Philadephia), who can move well for a big man. He is going well.
“I wouldn’t say to NRL players ‘don’t go over there’. If you are confident and have the time to test yourself out, I would say go for it.”