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Barba eyes off early release, but Sharks stand firm on Holmes

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is adamant he won't release Valentine Holmes from the final year of his contract at the club despite North Queensland's interest in the Australian representative.

However, the situation could change with Cronulla's 2016 premiership-winning fullback Ben Barba considering a return to the NRL next year if he can get an early release from English club St Helens.

The Cowboys have been in discussion with Holmes and his manager about luring the Queensland star back to his home state in 2019 but under the NRL rules, they are not able to table him an offer for 2020 until November 1, when he enters the final year of his contract. understands Holmes is keen to return closer to friends and family, and while the Sharks are not considering a release, Barba making a comeback to the club might cause a rethink.

Barba is in red-hot form in the Super League and has another year to run on his deal, however his partner, Ainslie Currie, is believed to be struggling with homesickness living abroad with their four young daughters.

It is understood a release on compassionate grounds is being considered, which could pave the way for Barba's return to Cronulla in 2019.

The intriguing part is the fact Barba and Holmes are both managed by the same company.

Valentine Holmes and Ben Barba during Cronulla's charge to the title in 2016.
Valentine Holmes and Ben Barba during Cronulla's charge to the title in 2016. ©NRL Photos

St Helens Chairman Eamonn McManus has said the club's position on Barba has not changed.

McManus told England's Mirror Sport on Thursday: "Nothing has changed - there's been no discussion and no approaches (about an early release)".

Flanagan, who is well aware of the Cowboys' interest in Holmes, has told he has no desire to release Holmes before the end of next season and said the club was in the process of trying to extend his deal.

"Over my dead body. There's no way in the world I'll be letting him go before the end of his deal," Flanagan said.

"He will definitely be here next year and hopefully a lot longer. We're in the process of trying to extend him. We're in negotiations and we've spoken to Val and his manager. As soon as he comes out of Origin we'll be having another conversation about it."

Even if Barba returns to Cronulla next season, the Sharks could dig their heels in and keep Holmes.

The Cowboys are quietly confident Holmes will want to join the club in 2020, which means they may have to retain Lachlan Coote for another season as they wait for their No.1 long-term option for the No.1 jersey.

Ponga pulls back from spotlight

Kalyn Ponga has shown maturity beyond his years from the moment he landed on the scene as a promising teenager at the Cowboys.

He is as impressive off the field as he is on it. He is very mindful of not allowing the fame to get to his head. He was meant to appear on Sunday Night with Matty Johns on Fox Sports last Sunday night, however he pulled the pin at the 11th hour.

Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga.
Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Some at Fox Sports believe Channel Nine is working behind the scenes to add Ponga to its stable, which already includes the likes of Billy Slater.

However, has been told no such offer is on the cards and Ponga didn't appear on Fox because he feels as though the over-exposure through Origin may be detrimental in the long term. 

Ponga is just determined to stay grounded and even though NRL fans can't get enough of him at the moment, it's hard not to admire his attitude.

Klemmer sad to see Woods go

NSW forward David Klemmer has spoken about his disappointment over his best friend and Canterbury front-row partner Aaron Woods leaving the club mid-season.

Klemmer, who has a tight bond with Woods, couldn't hide his disappointment but said he was understanding of the club's predicament.

"Financially, and the position the club is in with the salary cap and whatever drama is happening, people are going to have to move on," Klemmer said.

David Klemmer and Aaron Woods after Australia's World Cup final win over England last year.
David Klemmer and Aaron Woods after Australia's World Cup final win over England last year. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"It's hard sometimes but we just have to play football and have faith in the club to do the right thing going forward. It's difficult but that's the business now. No one is safe.

"You can get a tap on the shoulder at any time. It's frustrating, to be honest, but I'm happy for him. He did a good job for the Sharks the other night and he will be good for them. It's hard for him. He's had no stability in his life and has been chopping and changing, but hopefully he will get that stability at the Sharks.

"It's disappointing because he's only been at the club for six months now. Obviously we haven't been going really well, and unfortunately that's how things are in this sport these days. You move on when you get told to move on and I think Woodsy has done the right thing by our club during his time here.

"He's a big loss for us off the field too. He's someone all the younger boys look up to. But the Sharks have got a big boost come finals time."

Props play up 'feud' on Instagram

There were a few raised eyebrows on Tuesday night when Broncos prop Matt Lodge and Sharks forward Andrew Fifita went at it on Instagram.

Lodge posted a photo of him waiting for a kick-off at Suncorp Stadium, to which Fifita replied: "3 weeks you gutless peace (sic) of sh--, Run it dead straight off the kick off at me! Round 2, 8 vs 8 #fifitalodge #letsgo."

Lodge returned serve: "I'll happily run it straight at you but I'll have to get the wingers ready on my side for when you run it SIDEWAYS across the field at them you 130kg HANDBRAKING CAT."

Wow. It's a fair sledge. But no need to freak out. Fifita and Lodge are very close friends. They grew up together.

So much so that last year in the lead-up to Origin III in Brisbane, Fifita spend a night at Lodge's house. He has always been in Lodge's corner, and nothing has changed. Even if they will be out for blood when they square off at Suncorp Stadium in round 20.

Officials demoted for missing forward pass

The referee and touch judge at the centre of the controversial decision to award Cronulla the match-winning try against the Warriors last week have been held accountable for the call.

Referee Adam Gee has been demoted to assistant referee, while touch judge Tim Roby hasn't been given a match this weekend following the forward pass from Ricky Leutele to Edrick Lee that went unnoticed.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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