Holmes flies throughout 'magical' 2016
Selection on the Kangaroo Four Nations Tour was a just reward for one of the up-and-coming stars of the NRL and a young man who played a pivotal role in the success of the Sharks in 2016.
One of those players the fans happily pay to see in action, Holmes scored 19 tries in 26 games this season, setting Southern Cross Group Stadium alight on numerous occasions with his athleticism and skill.
The fact that he managed 26 games was a testimony to his durability, the 19 tries a reward for his support play as well as his intuition and talent, while his toughness, although rarely talked about, was regularly on show with Holmes’ fearless charges back into the waiting defence on kick returns and when hitting the ball up in the Sharks defensive end of the field.
While Holmes made a push for the fullback position during the 2016 pre-season, he happily slotted in on the wing, forging a formidable Sharks right side with fellow 21-year-old Jack Bird, with the man himself admitting he learnt plenty from watching Ben Barba ply his trade at the back.
As Coach Shane Flanagan said a couple of times during 2016, Holmes was his best wing option this past year and his time in the number one jersey will come.
After being omitted from Queensland Origin contention as a result of an on off-field indiscretion, Holmes showed great maturity to put it behind him, work hard and help deliver a premiership to the Sutherland Shire.
He was hard not to notice, with Holmes producing his special brand of rugby league excitement on a weekly basis, but his four-try effort against the Newcastle Knights in round 10 was spectacular even by his standards.
On a day there where the Sharks registered a 62-0 triumph, Holmes looked well on track to emulate the five-try haul of club Immortal Andrew Ettingshausen but for an unselfish play late in the second half seeing him come up short.
Holmes would go on to score 19 tries during the season, equalling the long-standing club record, however it may have been the four he touched down for in Newcastle that put future opponents on notice that he would need to marked closely or they too might be embarrassed by the young Queensland flyer.
There were more than a few. Holmes scored 19 tries throughout the season, many of them breath-taking efforts, delivering moments which will live long in the memories of Sharks fans.
There were the acrobatic, Holmes flying through the air to plant the ball down inches from the corner post. A couple of his tries were significant, none more so than the four-pointer against the Raiders in week one of the finals to equal the club record established by David Peachey.
But one moment and one try stood out, the intercept and 90-metre, weaving run back in round 14 against the Cowboys. North Queensland, led by Johnathan Thurston chased, the crowd rose and cheered and Holmes zigged, zagged and won the race to the line for one of the best individual tries ever witnessed at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
However as good as that try may have been as a standout moment, honourable mention would go to a charge in the Grand Final qualifier, again against the Cowboys, and once more involving Thurston.
Running the ball like a rampaging forward Holmes knocked the Queensland captain off his feet, with Thurston spiralling backwards. The crowd roared, the Sharks lifted and just a week later a premiership resulted.
With family roots linking him to both Australian and New Zealand, Holmes had a decision make when it came to his international allegiance. In the end some words of wisdom from the Sharks captain helped him make the call.
“Gal (Gallen) said to do whatever was right in your heart and don’t listen to anyone else. People will try and make you go to New Zealand or Australia but just do what is right.”
Now a member of the Kangaroos Four Nations squad, Holmes looked forward to pulling on the green and gold to cap a memorable year.
“I’m just trying to soak it all up. It’s finally sunk in that I’ve won the premiership. Now I’m here, it’s finally hit me. I’m emotional.”
Year in Review: Valentine Holmes*
Games played 2016 - 26
Line Breaks: 24 (1st)
Tackle Busts: 66
Average run metres: 130.5
* Statistics via www.foxsports.com.au/nrl and Big League Magazine