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Cronulla outside back Valentine Holmes.

Cronulla Sharks premiership-winning hooker Michael Ennis believes his former coach Shane Flanagan needs to bite the bullet and return fullback Valentine Holmes to wing on a full-time basis to give recruit Josh Dugan time at fullback.

In his Big League column this week, Ennis also runs the rule over some of the new-look halves combinations to analyse who fired, and who flopped, in round one.

Holmes – who scored a stunning 12 tries from the wing for the Kangaroos in the 2017 World Cup – had a tough night at fullback in his side's 20-14 loss to the Cowboys at Townsville.

"I played with Valentine when he was a winger and to me, he's one of the best wingers in the game," Ennis told Big League.

"For the betterment of the team, Holmes should play on the wing and Dugan at fullback. I wouldn't move Moylan from the halves because he's going to improve as the season progresses."

Ennis also backed Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary's decision to go with the unheralded Pita Godinet at No.9 with the steady Matt McIlwrick on the bench in their upset 10-8 win over the Roosters on Saturday.

"A lot of recognition has to go to coach Ivan Cleary and Benji Marshall," Ennis said.

"They executed a game plan that shocked the premiership favourites. I like the bravery of Cleary to go with Pita Godinet at dummy-half. In this day and age, you really need a point of attack from dummy-half and I though Godinet had that zip around dummy-half.

"The control of Benji Marshall, who is known for his flamboyancy, was also superb."

Ennis was less impressed with their opponents, but is backing Cooper Cronk and co. to improve as combinations develop.

"On paper, this Roosters side is as good as I've ever seen, but those key combinations just weren't there yet," Ennis said.

"Cooper Cronk comes from a very structured environment at Melbourne. He knew what lines the edge players liked to run and more often than not, had Billy Slater out the back.

"[Injured five-eighth] Luke Keary will add a lot to the side when he returns. Keary was the buy of the season for me last season, along with Josh Addo-Carr. He's a natural footballer and he loves to play fast and run the football. Having someone who wants the football in hand will really suit Cronk."

The new-look Newcastle Knights produced an eye-catching performance after their off-season roster overhaul.

"While they came away with the win, there are still some question marks over the combinations of Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson," Ennis said.

"I thought Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Slade Griffin really came together, but I'm not yet sold on Connor Watson as a five-eighth. I like him as a number 14 off the bench with his versatility and speed. He can really trouble opponents and become an attacking weapon off the bench – similar to Craig Wing or Kurt Gidley."

Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga.
Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary outshone his more experienced halves partner James Maloney in their comeback win over the Eels on Sunday.

"[Cleary] showed a lot of maturity by not forcing his hand when they were trailing," Ennis said.

"He picked his moments and ran the football, it was an incredible performance. His combination with James Maloney looked rusty early on, but Cleary grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and tore apart the Eels.

''It was a real lesson to some of the other halves in the game about staying in the moment and being patient."

Coaches Corner - Hunt & Pearce

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