Young halfback Kyle Flanagan looms as the Sydney Roosters’ long-term replacement for Cooper Cronk after announcing he’ll join the NRL premiers from Cronulla next year.
Last month Cronulla Sharks and Queensland superstar Valentine Holmes announced that he was quitting rugby league and would pursue a dream of playing in the National Football League (NFL).
This story was hot news for a day or two in Australia, largely because his captain at Cronulla, Paul Gallen, came out publicly and called Holmes selfish, believing he owed his club and his teammates more respect.
The criticism of Holmes by his club captain and later his coach Shane Flanagan was wildly off the mark. Valentine gave up a huge money, long-term contract in a sport in which he excels to have a crack at a game that excites him, but that he has never played. It might be a massive gamble, but it is far from a selfish act.
Those high up in rugby league circles should be rushing to condemn the players who have been accused of far worse than chasing their dreams in a far-away land. In the past week alone there have been numerous reports of alleged indecent assault and domestic violence involving NRL players and we haven’t heard a peep from those who were the most vocal in their taunting of the code-hopping international winger.
None of the atrocious acts have been proven in a court of law yet so I am not going to delve into the details of these accusations, other than to say that rugby league has copped another black eye under Todd Greenberg’s leadership.
It seems the image of the game continues to suffer, despite Todd being invested heavily in selling rugby league as a pillar of the community. Sadly, I believe Greenberg has failed to recognise that he is in charge of a sport that is not immune to the problems we see in society everyday.
But that is enough commentary on the state of the NRL – as a rugby league winger and big NFL supporter myself, I am excited by Valentine’s quest and have set out to list the top five reasons that he will make an NFL team’s 53-man roster next year:
Reason number one: He is a winger
Val has long argued he is a fullback but there is no doubt he is actually a winger. Wingers rarely have to do much at all in rugby league, other than field the odd kick and take a couple of dummy half runs in a game.
If Val can manage just four kick receptions and run for 50 yards in an NFL game, Americans will be falling over themselves to get him in their fantasy team.
Reason number two: Minimal tackling
Holmes will play on offense in the NFL, meaning the most he will have to do defensively is run the odd block, unless there is a turnover while he is on the field – which won’t happen often. Given the size of some of those NFL linebackers it’s probably best to not expose a rugby league winger to tackling them often.
Reason number three: He’s a touchdown king
Holmes has a stupid knack of crossing the white line when playing in important football games. In last year’s World Cup he scored 11 tries in two finals games alone. Holmes crosses the stripe almost at will in club and state of origin games.
With a strike rate like Val’s, Todd Gurley and Saquon Barkley will be looking over their shoulders in 2019.
Reason number four: The Fifita Brothers
While there is no doubt he will have to put up with some major egos in American football, and he will have to learn a whole new lingo, there is no way possible that he will come across bigger tools than the Fifitas.
It’s a sure bet they won’t follow him to the States either as the family is still paying off a massive Centrelink debt. Sources close to the Sharks have even suggested Andrew Fifita is the main reason Holmes is leaving the Southern Hemisphere.
Reason number five: Luke Lewis
Having retired from rugby league in 2018, Luke Lewis loss will be felt far and wide. Those close to Holmes have been nursing the star through the headache of losing his mentor, and an ornament of the game.
The suggestion by some that Paul Gallen could take over in this role pretty much forced Holmes into purchasing his plane ticket. There is no way he will fail in his gridiron quest with that type of motivation.
So there you have it, undeniable evidence that Valentine Holmes will succeed in his ambition and go on and play NFL in 2019.
And even if doesn’t, surely a lighthearted opinion piece about a talented young go-getter is more entertaining than the scandalous rubbish dished up by the papers so far in December. Good luck Val.