Cronulla Sharks back Valentine Holmes.
Cronulla Sharks back Valentine Holmes. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Barba switch creates big opportunity for Holmes

A SHOCKED Valentine Holmes has revealed he's ready to be the silver lining for Cronulla fans after Ben Barba walked out on his Sharks deal to link with French rugby side Toulon.

Still reeling just hours after being informed his premiership teammate was leaving the country, Holmes said he's ready to jump into the breach.

The freshly minted Kangaroos star was already set to start the 2017 season in his preferred fullback position, with Barba forced to sit out the opening 12 weeks of the season due to a drug ban.

That scenario now looks to be moot after Barba shocked the rugby league world by signing with Toulon, with his new one-year Sharks deal still to be registered by the NRL.

"It did surprise me, I thought he was coming back but I haven't really heard too much about that," Holmes said.

"Definitely, it's always been in the back of my mind, whether he'd come back and play fullback - I would have probably just gone to the wing anyway, so it's not like I would have been booted, I wouldn't have been that upset because hopefully I was still in the team somewhere.

"But (the Barba news) clears the mind a little bit and makes me just think about the fullback role and starting to get my head around it for the season."

The NRL has confirmed that Barba will not start serving his 12-game NRL ban until a contract is registered with a club, if and when he returns to the game.

Barba's decision creates a huge opportunity for Holmes to stamp his mark as one of the best fullbacks in the game in a year when he's playing for a new contract.

One of the Sharks' top retention priorities, Holmes could conceivably command close to $1 million a season from 2018 and beyond.

If that's how it pans out, Holmes admitted Barba was entitled to some of the credit after playing a strong mentoring role for him in 2016 but the Queensland Origin aspirant said it was time for him to look forward.

"I always watched (Barba) at training and got tips from him," Holmes said.

"He was always happy to help me out last year when he was playing fullback.

"But he's not the only fullback I like watching, I've always liked watching Billy Slater and Darius Boyd's playing awesome at the Broncos, so I'll try and take a little bit from what I see in those guys and mix it up and put it towards my game.

"Hopefully I can go good this year."

News Corp Australia

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