Narrowed down to a field of two by Coach Shane Flanagan, just who will wear the ‘number 1’ come the side’s Round 1 matchup with the Brisbane Broncos remains to be decided.
Right flank combination Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes lead the race to fill the vacant jersey, with Flanagan using pre-season training and trial form to inform his decision so when the time comes to ink his first team list come the last Tuesday in February.
Touted as possible candidates to play fullback ahead of Ben Barba last season, Bird quickly found a home in the right centre role, while Holmes held on to his ‘5’ jersey as he had done so throughout much of 2015.
Though with Holmes yet to return to training following an end-of-year trip to the United Kingdom in the Australian Four Nations Squad, the Coach said Bird has the jump on his right-edge partner this time around.
“Well, Birdy’s got a head start there,” Flanagan laughed.
“Val (Holmes) is obviously, probably almost everyone’s first choice there at fullback but Birdy does that fullback role really well
“He likes to roam both sides of the field, unfortunately with him playing right centre sometimes he gets locked in there.
“From a team structure point of view, Val probably could be the best one. But I’m not striking Birdy off that list just yet.”
Though so much has changed in the Shire and beyond for all things black, white and blue inside the last twelve months, some things remain the same.
Now with a Premiership ring to his name, Flanagan laughed when giving very little away ahead of the new campaign.
“There’ll be speculation over Christmas and into the New Year … like there was last year, I’ll just let them speculate for a while and they’ll have to turn up that Thursday night (March 2, versus the Broncos at Southern Cross Group Stadium)