Valentine Holmes is feeling the love - and a bit of heat - from Sharks coach Shane Flanagan as the game's hottest property weighs up his future.
Holmes' first priority is keeping Cronulla's premiership campaign alive against Penrith this Friday night. He heads into the sudden-death final in career-best form and well and truly at home in the Sharks No.1 jersey.
Flanagan and Cronulla have tabled Holmes the biggest extension in the club's history in a bid to tie him down beyond 2019, but contract talks have been put on hold by both parties until the end of the season as North Queensland's interest looms large on the horizon.
From November 1, the Cowboys will be able to officially lodge a formal offer to bring Holmes back to Townsville, though there is no chance of an early release for next season.
But Flanagan won't be letting his star custodian go without a fight, declaring last month that he would "sell a floor of the Leagues club" to keep Holmes in the Shire.
"Obviously it makes it harder," Holmes said of Flanagan's all-out retention bid.
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"He'll obviously do what any coach would do to keep their players all together. I've pretty much played under [only] Flanno since I've been at the Sharks.
"He's obviously seen how I've grown up and how I've played out as a player.
"He probably sees a bit more in me that he wants to keep going and keep teaching me, it's going to be a hard decision."
The lure of family is an obvious factor pulling Holmes north, while the last 12 months of his current Cronulla contract - until the end of 2020 - is an option in his favour.
Holmes' struggles to cement the Sharks fullback role earlier in the season had initially fuelled suggestions he and Flanagan weren't seeing eye-to-eye as the Cowboys interest emerged.
That prompted Flanagan to clarify the situation with Holmes' management, and he has since taken a more hands-on role with the Queensland star this year after deferring much of his development to former assistant Steve Price in 2017.
"I always felt [the love]," Holmes grinned on Monday.
"I've grown up a junior here so they've obviously done a lot for me, I came here as a young boy and I've always had the love for Sharks and I'm sure they had the same.
"We've finished top four so I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one he loves, he loves all the boys."
More than any other player, Holmes has been key to Cronulla's late-season run, a far cry from his early season form when the likes of Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan were preferred at fullback.
Since claiming four tries on the wing for the Maroons across this year's Origin series Holmes has added 11 tries and 14 line breaks in nine games for the Sharks, coming out the other side of his first form slump with flying colours.
"It wasn't the greatest time, I wasn't playing good footy but I try not to read into stuff too much," he said of his early form struggles.
"I don't really care what people think of me.
"I knew myself that I needed to play better and could've played better. It wasn't the best start to the season but I'm sort of glad it happened the way it did.
"I feel like I've proved a lot of people wrong. I'm happy about that."