While Latrell Mitchell can now find the funny side of his ongoing contract saga, former suitors North Queensland won’t be laughing after the NRL star admitted he only visited Townsville in the off-season to go fishing.
Prized North Queensland recruit Valentine Holmes has dismissed fears he will suffer the same fate as Jarryd Hayne, vowing to recapture his NRL form after returning from the NFL “stronger and faster”.
Holmes, 24, admitted he was aware of speculation that he may struggle to pick up where he left off in the NRL after spending 2019 pursuing his NFL dream with New York Jets.
But he rejected comparisons with dual Dally M Medallist Hayne who never regained his greatness when he returned to the NRL at 28 after a 2015 NFL stint with San Francisco 49ers.
“He (Hayne) had a bit of age on his side. He was a bit older than me so for him it would have been a bit harder to come back as good as he was,” Holmes said.
“But I kept in good shape over there. I feel a bit stronger, bit faster, bit better agility-wise.
“My stamina is something I will have to focus on and my ball skills.
“I haven’t played footy in a while but I am sure I will get it back.”
North Queensland coach Paul Green was convinced the NFL experience would only make Holmes a better NRL player.
“I think given his age and experience he has the potential to come back a better player,” he said.
“We are over the moon about signing him. A guy like Valentine with his skill set and athletic ability can really add an extra dimension to our attack.”
Holmes said he would stay away from social media critics and focus on repaying the faith shown by the Cowboys who waited almost a year to finally sign the ex-Cronulla flyer on a lucrative six-year deal.
“I don’t really feel pressure. I always play every game like it was my last – that is what my dad always told me,” he said.
“l will keep that going when I am here. I am here to win. That is what my mindset is going to be.”
North Queensland officially unveiled their prized signing at a Townsville press conference on Monday after keeping in touch with Holmes when the Queensland winger left in late 2018 for the NFL.
The Cowboys set aside salary cap space as they sweated on his return before signing Holmes barely 24 hours after his NFL release, on a deal reportedly worth almost $1 million a season from 2020.
“To show that faith in me is awesome and I will try to show it back when I play,” Townsville-born Holmes said.
“It was a kind of an easy decision (signing with Cowboys). I have family here, have friends here from school and I have always loved the Cowboys since I was growing up – it’s good to be back home.”
Holmes is expected to spark a Cowboys side that has missed the finals the past two seasons.
But asked if Holmes’ signing made North Queensland 2020 title contenders, Green said: “I am not going to make any early crows like that, that’s ridiculous – we have a lot of work to do.”
Holmes is tipped to don North Queensland’s No.1 jersey but Green baulked when asked where he would play his star signing.
“The demands of the game have probably changed a little bit since last time he pulled the boots on,” he said.
“We will see where he is at when he gets on the training paddock.”