Scrolling through Valentine Holmes’ stats list for the 2017 season, one key statistic that stands out is his kick return metres.
In 2017, Holmes carried the ball back from opposition kicks for a total of 1,777 metres. This was 374 metres more than any other player in the NRL and perhaps a strong reason why he gained both Origin and Australian caps this year.
Perhaps not one of the most glamorous stats there is, it’s one that his team mates (especially the big boys) certainly appreciate. For every metre he trucks forward is two metres less that they have to run back.
Holmes is one of the most exciting runners of the ball to watch in the game and it’s his trademark fearless charges when returning kicks that are always a highlight of his performances at the back.
Having spent most of his career on the wing, it was always going to be a learning curve in 2017 for Val. Fullback is a position that takes some getting use to.
Many people were wondering if he could step in and fill the void left by live wire premiership-winning fullback Ben Barba, but comparing the two is hard when Val brings to the table things that Barba could not, and vice versa.
Those trademark kick returns are one such thing. Val’s not afraid to throw his body on the line and charge at the rushing defence for 80 minutes straight.
With new recruit Josh Dugan entering the Club in 2018, just how the Sharks back line will look come Round 1 is still anyone’s guess, but while most will agree that his time at fullback is a work in progress, with practice comes confidence and with a big 2017 under his belt the sky is the limit for what Val can do in 2018 and beyond.
It will be interesting to see where and how Holmes is used within the Kangaroos squad in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup, but one thing’s for sure, there’s no doubt Val will be one of those players we will talk about for years to come.