Holmes's Origin II surprise
Cronulla Shark Valentine Holmes has revealed he did not think Corey Oates would be dropped from the Queensland Maroons after a strong showing from the winger in Game One of the 2017 State of Origin series.
The Maroons' newest debutant will replace Oates on the wing in Game Two, with the 22-year-old Brisbane Bronco axed from the side after playing four-straight games for Queensland
Oates was one of Queensland's best in their 28-4 loss to the New South Wales Blues in Game One, running for 158 metres and scoring a try.
It backed up his 2016 Origin form, with Oates running for the second-most run metres (397) in that series, finishing only behind teammate Dane Gagai (403) after three matches.
But Maroons coach Kevin Walters has decided Oates should be the one to make way for Holmes who has been in fine form at NRL level.
Holmes, who has represented the Australian Kangaroos on five occasions, averages 185 run metres per game, with a lot of this down to his speed and fancy footwork.
He is a very different player to Oates who uses his size and leg drive to make metres through pure strength, but even with this advantage Oates (170) averages 15 running metres less than Holmes per game and it these little statistics that fall in favour of the Sharks flyer.
Despite this, Holmes thinks Oates's work in a Queensland jumper has been exceptional and that he is unlucky not to be playing in Game Two.
"I thought him and Dane Gagai were very strong in a losing team. They both carried the ball very well. I didn't think he would get cut," Holmes said.
"Everyone was saying they needed to make changes so they did, in both the forwards and the backs.
"Corey has played a few games now and he's done very well for Queensland.
"I'm just going to play like I have been for club and Australia. I've done that by running the ball back hard and competing for everything.
"If I get my chance to score I'll definitely do my best to score it."
Holmes's Origin debut has been a long time coming after being banned from selection for 12 months in 2016.
Holmes was part of a large group of players that broke curfew during Queensland's Emerging Origin camp at the start of that year.
After doing his time, Holmes said it ultimately all worked out for the best and that he has learned from his mistakes.
"All the boys learnt from that. It has worked out well," he said.
"I don't know if I would have been ready to play Origin last year. I only had probably 30 NRL games under my belt.
"It's a good thing and I had a good year. I was happy with it."
The year ended with a Cronulla premiership and four of his grand final winning teammates will face off against Holmes when they run out for the Blues at ANZ Stadium.
James Maloney, Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham and Jack Bird will all be looking to one-up Holmes, and the 21-year-old said the banter had started already.
"I did get a bit of banter there, especially the day after I got the phone call," he said.
"I had to go in for a little screening and all the boys were there. They were very proud of me and very happy for me, but obviously at the same time there was a bit of banter and they can't wait to verse me out there.
"It is a bit weird [knowing I'll be playing them] but I can't wait for it."