Holmes happy learning from Slater
Kangaroos winger Valentine Holmes grew up watching Billy Slater, dreaming of one day playing fullback for Australia like his idol, but the 22-year-old knows this may be a long way off even if he keeps breaking records on the wing.
Holmes scored six tries for Australia on Friday night, equalling New Zealander Hugh McGahan's 1983 Test record, and breaking his own record for the most tries in a single World Cup match.
The Sharks flyer had set that record just a week before, scoring five four-pointers against Samoa before backing it up against the Bati with six in the Kangaroos' thumping 54-6 semi-final victory.
These outstanding back-to-back performances have sparked debate about whether Holmes is a better winger or fullback, with the man himself preferring to wear the No.1 jersey.
But his skills on the wing cannot be denied, and Holmes will continue to cherish his time in the Australian team no matter what the position.
"It was Billy Slater who I used to watch," Holmes said.
"He and Matty Bowen were the players I used to watch when I was a kid and I've been lucky enough to play alongside Billy. It's something I'll always cherish and something I'll never forget.
"It's my dream to play fullback but he's still got a couple more years in him. He's going really well and he obviously showed tonight that he's playing at his best. That's why he's number one in the world so I'm just happy to learn from him and take in everything I can."
And learn he has, utilising his time in Queensland Maroons camp earlier in the year to improve himself both physically and mentally.
It is something Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has noticed, citing Holmes's work with the 'Big Three' as the biggest learning curve for the young winger.
"I think his preparation [has improved]. Looking and being involved with Cameron (Smith), Cooper (Cronk) and certainly Billy this year. He looks, observes and listens really well," Meninga said.
"I think his preparation has certainly improved over the last 12 months leading up to a game. That's certainly a good thing for him, he gets that right and then he plays really well."
Smith, a veteran of 55 Test matches, is the ultimate professional on and off the field, meticulously dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't' to get the best out of himself.
It is why his international career is about to enter its 13th year, and why so many aspire to be like him.
The 34-year-old has seen it all during his reign as Kangaroos No.9, but Holmes has still managed to leave an impression.
Speaking to media after Australia's win over Fiji, Smith said Holmes's work ethic and application were the most impressive attributes of the young winger's game.
"Obviously I didn't know too much about him before he came into State of Origin and the Kangaroos, but I think that's where he's developed the most, more so his mental preparation," Smith said.
"He's doing a fair bit of homework on his opposition, particularly on their kickers and where they're going to place the ball, as well as where he needs to be positioned defensively.
"He's got great natural ability when he's got the footy but just having that right frame of mind coming into a game, particularly the big matches, helps him fulfil his role."