He was the World Cup’s leading try scorer on the wing for Australia but his NRL club is keeping Valentine Holmes at fullback.
Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has confirmed there will be no positional switch in the Telstra Premiership for his talented speedster.
“The speculation about Val comes because of how good he plays on the wing, not how poorly he plays at fullback,” Flanagan told NRL.com.
Conjecture about Holmes’s future at the Sharks began swirling because he scored just six tries last season after his move to the No.1 jersey following Ben Barba’s departure to French rugby union. That compared unfavourably with the 19 tries Holmes notched on the left wing in the 2016 premiership-winning campaign.
Over the past six weeks for the Kangaroos, he crossed 12 times to be crowned the 14-nation tournament’s top try scorer ahead of Fijian flanker Suliasi Vunivalu (9) and England winger Jermaine McGillvary (7).
Reports said Flanagan would be scratching his head on where to put Holmes considering he had signed two other fullbacks in Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan.
Flanagan heard all the talk but decided not to contact Holmes while he was in camp with the Kangaroos so as not to distract him from his representative duties.
“I didn’t speak to him until he finished but he knows where he stands,” Flanagan said. “It’s not a case of him deserving to be fullback because he’s our incumbent.
“No one deserves a spot, they earn it. But I just wanted to put his mind at rest. I wasn’t disappointed with the way he played last year. I wasn’t looking to replace him or anything like that.
“Everyone gets excited and thinks if I put him on the wing he’ll score 19 tries again. That mightn’t be the case either.
“Val was spoon-fed a lot of those (12) tries for Australia in the World Cup – from Billy (Slater) and (Michael) Morgan and Duges (Dugan). That was a little like in 2016 when he had Jack Bird inside of him and also Barba feeding him.
“He is a finisher, a dead-set finisher. But he’s a good fullback as well. We’ve got to give him time at fullback.”
Flanagan said apart from Dugan, who seemed to relish the custodian role from the get-go with the Canberra Raiders, most NRL fullbacks are nurtured from the wing into No.1.
“Duges is probably an exception but I think Darius Boyd has got better with age and developed as a fullback after starting on the wing,” Flanagan said. “I had a bit to do with Mini (Anthony Minichiello) when I was at the Roosters and he started on the wing and developed into a fullback.
“So we’re not rushing Val and we’re not saying he’s not a fullback. We just to make sure we’re putting out the best team each week. Remember Matty Moylan is also a fullback so it’s a good problem to have.”