Valentine Holmes on stepping up a level
The Cronulla Shark’s star winger talks about how football is different at representative level compared to the finals, and how he met the challenge.
Holmes has enjoyed a meteoric rise in his rugby league career, having won a grand final, earning a Test Cap for Australia and played for Queensland in Origin—all before he turned 22 years old. Even though he may have sped through the ranks, Holmes tells Inside Sport that there’s always an adjustment to make at every new level.
“Finals are a whole new game,” he said. “Everyone turns up. It’s lots faster, more physical. No matter how good or bad you go–in finals games, one loss and you’re out. Finals footy is a lot more pressure, and scarier than the normal season.”
Conquering Cronulla’s half-century long premiership drought was an extra achievement, one that put Holmes on the track for rep honours. Just after he became a premiership player, he found himself part of Mal Meninga’s Australian side for the Four Nations.
“It was the first time I’d been over in England,” Holmes said. “It was awesome to play the final [at Anfield]. If the temperature dropped under six degrees, heaters came on underneath. It was a pretty good crowd too.”
One thing he hadn’t done at that point was play State of Origin—a cause of that, in part, stemmed from his involvement in the emerging Maroons’ curfew controversy, which saw Holmes and a bunch of other young Queensland stars ruled out of the 2016 series.
A more mature Holmes reflected on how that experience ultimately benefitted him, not that he has made his debut for the Maroons. “Personally, I felt not ready for Origin that young. I’d only played 25 games then.”