Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes is excelling at the back.

Holmes overcomes mental hurdles

All rugby league players will tell you of the mental struggles coming back from an injury regardless of the amount of time out of the game. 

‌Whether it is a short-term layoff or a six-month recovery process, the extent of doubt in a player's mind varies but is always floating around upon a return.  

It was a case of mind over matter for Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes after missing the opening two games of the Telstra Premiership as he recovered from a hamstring strain suffered in the pre-season.

Despite the injury considered minor for Holmes, that didn't stop the Australian international from creating fear in his mind during his first fortnight back on the field.

"The first couple of weeks my head was thinking otherwise so I was weary and hesitant about whether I would be right while I was playing," Holmes told NRL.com.

"I got a bit of help from 'Flanno' (Sharks coach Shane Flanagan) as he put me onto the wing to start back before I moved [into the No.1 jersey] to ease my way into returning.

"Once I could beat those thoughts in my head it was easier to play at 100 per cent.

"I think that's what nearly all players will tell you, it's a sport where you have to be mentally strong as well as physically, and in a key position like fullback now I need to ensure my head is right more than ever."

Now three games into his career as the Sharks' newest fullback, the 21-year-old has averaged over 203 metres in the custodian role and has quickly returned to peak form that helped deliver Cronulla their maiden premiership last season. 

While he has already represented Australia, the opportunity to play for Queensland is still yet to be achieved after Holmes was forced to sit out the 2016 series due to an indiscretion.

Now a year on and Holmes is eyeing off a maiden Maroons jersey and isn't fussed which position he is selected in, just as long as he's there.

"The start of the year I wrote it down as one of my key goals, it's a very hard team to make and not something you can just walk into," he said. 

"With Billy and Darius there I'm happy to play on the wing and after a few years with the Sharks in that position I'm more than accustomed to that role."

The Sharks take on a Gold Coast Titans outfit on the end of four-straight losses but who could welcome back Jarryd Hayne, with the former Australian international a chance to be named in Neil Henry's 21-man squad for the trip to the shire.

The chance to play against Hayne again is a challenge Holmes looks forward to after admitting he wasn't sure it would ever happen again.

"I made my debut against him [in 2014] and that was the last time we ever played each other," Holmes said.

"He's an idol of mine that I've always grown up watching so if he's not available this week for the Titans then hopefully he's back on the field soon but we will expect him to play.

"It's always close between the two sides."

The Sharks made easy work of the Panthers' attack on Sunday and are expecting a Titans outfit that will be heavily relying on young halves pairing Kane Elgey and Ash Taylor.

After handling Panthers duo Te Maire Martin and Nathan Cleary, the Sharks are expected to again target the Titans' edges in defence.

"That's something we really pride ourselves on and after last week [against the Storm] we wanted to back it up again so the boys did well to limit them to only two points," Holmes said of the Panthers game.

"When they (Martin and Cleary) have the ball everyone knows they're elusive and dangerous so our plan was to try and get at them as they're not the biggest halves or experienced so Wade [Graham] and Luke [Lewis] did a good job on them to really slow down their attack.

"We knew those high kicks were coming off the boot of Cleary so we prepared even more than what we usually would, some teams have struggled against them so we wanted to make sure as a back three we weren't one of those.

"[Fullback] is a position I'm still adjusting to, it's where I've always wanted to play but at this level there is still so much to learn."