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Seven years after first tabling a $1500 offer to a skinny 16-year-old Townsville City fullback, the Cowboys finally have their biggest signing since Jonathan Thurston.

Valentine Holmes was unveiled as North Queensland's marquee signing on Monday, having inked a six-year deal worth more than $5 million on his return from New York and the NFL.

Clocking in at just under seven figures per annum, his contract ranks as one of the biggest in the club's history, though Jason Taumalolo's whopping 10-year, $10 million commitment still sits in pole position.

Not since Thurston's arrival from the Bulldogs in 2005 has such a seismic signing been made in Townsville. 

And at the time there was nowhere near the same fanfare around the headgeared half who would become one of the best of all time.

Valentine Holmes boasts a remarkable eight tries in five Origin games.
Valentine Holmes boasts a remarkable eight tries in five Origin games. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

For the Cowboys, Holmes has long been the one that got away. 

A local junior and a childhood fan, North Queensland's $1500 junior deal was trumped by a three-year offer from Cronulla in late 2012 – iPhone footage shot by his agent Gavin Orr prompting their interest.

Holmes moved south on his own at just 17, battling bouts of homesickness to rise to representative honours and a 2016 premiership.

Valentine Holmes media conference

The Cowboys have been circling since Holmes first hit the open market in late-2018 despite the Sharks tabling their own lucrative offer, the biggest in their history.

Waiting 12 months while Holmes pursued an NFL career with the New York Jets was "a little bit uncomfortable at different times" for Cowboys coach Paul Green.

But with little game time and no clear pathway to the top level stateside, Holmes is back in his home town and rugby league once more.

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"It's a perfect fit for all parties," Green said.

"As a club part of our ethos is to provide a pathway for North Queensland kids. 

"It's a very competitive market signing players, particularly young players. 

"You're not going to keep them all but to be able to give an opportunity for someone like Valentine to come back and represent the region, the team that he supported as a kid, it's a great story."

Holmes described the move back to Townsville as "an easy decision for me".

Family and friends all call the area home, as does his wife Natalia's new business venture – a women's gym opened last year with her sister Brianna, who is also the better half of Cowboys captain Michael Morgan.

Fronting the media for the first time in North Queensland colours, Holmes said he did not feel additional pressure from the multimillion-dollar investment made in him by the club.

But he does appreciate the good faith kept in him while on the other side of the globe in another code.

He's got the potential to come back a better player.

Paul Green

"Since I was off contract with the Sharks there was interest from the Cowboys," Holmes said. 

"I was always intrigued on coming home and starting my life back home with my family again.

"It was obviously a big decision on the club's side of view … They had a lot of faith in me, when I was moving overseas they didn't know what I was going to do. 

"To show that faith in me is awesome and I'll obviously try and show it back when I'm playing."

The No.1 jersey beckons, even with Scott Drinkwater's impressive form at the back in his first season at the club.

All of Valentine Holmes' tries from 2018

And now the Cowboys have finally landed their man, Green is optimistic about making the returning Kangaroos and Maroons star even better.

"I think given his age and his experience level, he's got the potential to come back a better player," Green said. 

"Having the training he had over there in the NFL which is probably a bit different to what he is used to playing in the NRL, I think that could be a real opportunity for him and the team as well. 

"Without stating the obvious, we're over the moon about signing him. 

"A guy like Val with his skillset and athletic ability can really add an extra dimension to our attack in particular."

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg was pleased to see Holmes back in the Telstra Premiership.

"When he left I congratulated him on chasing a dream but I always thought he’d be back sooner rather than later," Greenberg said.

"That has proven to be right and he is welcomed back. It is great to see him back. If there wasn’t enough heat going in to the very first game at the brand new stadium at Townsville then Valentine will add a bit more flavour to it."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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