Valentine Holmes becoming a leader at the Sharks
Coming off the back of a successful World Cup campaign, Valentine Holmes is taking more of a leadership role while learning from the many veteran forwards at the Cronulla Sharks.
In 2017 the 22-year-old held the Sharks' No.1 jersey, made his Queensland debut in the second State of Origin game and broke the record for the most tries scored in a Test for Australia.
Holmes, who returned to pre-season training last week, told NRL.com his focus for this year was to continue to build his game and to lead by example.
"I'd like to be a leader by my actions, especially to our other outside backs and the younger boys that are coming through as we have some great young talent coming through from 20s," he said.
"I'm obviously still one of the youngest in the team so I try not to talk too much as we have Gal (Paul Gallen), Lewie (Luke Lewis) and Wado (Wade Graham) that do most of the talking. I just say my part and if it helps, then it helps."
Cronulla finished fifth in 2017 and were eliminated in the first week of the playoffs. They have recruited well in the off-season by signing the likes of St George Illawarra Dragons international Josh Dugan, South Sydney Rabbitohs back Aaron Gray, Penrith Panthers five-eighth Matt Moylan and Wests Tigers forward Ava Seaumanafagai.
Expectations are high just two years after their maiden premiership win and Holmes admitted they were aiming for the top but not getting too far ahead of themselves.
"Everyone's goal is to get to the last games of the year," he said.
"We have had meetings on taking it week by week and worrying about the team we're playing instead of who we have in the next couple of weeks."
Cronulla's first trial is against Manly Sea Eagles on February 17, and Holmes is feeling confident with how the squad is tracking and the new additions to the squad.
"With Dugan and Moylan added to the squad I think we're are looking really good and we are all starting to form combinations. Hopefully when the trial games come we all gel together and put a good performance in," he said.
Dugan is set to rival Holmes for his cherished No.1 jersey and he's already been inundated with questions about it but the incumbent fullback said he was not bothered by the speculation.
"I like playing fullback, I like being around the ball a bit more instead of being restricted on the sideline scoring tries. I don't really care about scoring tries, I'd just rather be around the ball more," he said.
"I like to hold myself accountable on a lot of things, especially playing fullback.
"I want to try and keep playing representative games, and that obviously comes down to how good we play in club games.
"We're trying to have the mentality that no one is bigger than each other in the team."