Holmes emerges from wings to take cen­tre stage

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - PETER BADEL

MA­ROONS speed machine Valen­tine Holmes says his Ori­gin hat- trick is the ul­ti­mate re­ward for the dark times when he feared he would never make it to the NRL.

Ma­roons coach Kevin Wal­ters de­clared Holmes has a long- term fu­ture on the left wing af­ter his re­mark­able tre­ble helped in­spire Queens­land’s 22- 6 vic­tory in the Ori­gin de­cider.

In the process, Holmes en­tered an elite club. He be­came just the fifth Queens­lan­der in Ori­gin’s 37- year his­tory to score three tries in a game, join­ing Kerry Boustead ( 1984), Lote Tuqiri ( 2002), Matt Sing ( 2003) and Dane Ga­gai ( 2016).

But for all his fin­ish­ing class, Holmes’s jour­ney to State of Ori­gin has been tur­bu­lent.

Just five years ago, he felt washed up at age 17 in home­town Townsville. He dreamt of play­ing NRL for the Cow­boys, but lo­cal scouts showed lit­tle in­ter­est.

Now he is a match­win­ner who pos­sesses the youth and bril­liance to threaten Greg Inglis’ Ori­gin tryscor­ing record of 18 from 30 games.

“I still can’t be­lieve I have scored a hat- trick in State of Ori­gin,” said Holmes, who has four tries from his first two games.

“To be able to score in this arena so many times al­ready is awe­some.

“It’s just a dream to play at this level. I’m on the wing, so that’s what good wingers have to do. But I couldn’t have done it with­out the guys in­side me.”

Holmes, 21, has now played Test and Ori­gin foot­ball and won a premier­ship, but it took a move to Syd­ney as a teenager to save his ca­reer.

“I don’t think the Cow­boys ever looked at me. I never made any rep sides in North Queens­land, so to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever make the NRL,” Holmes said.

“They have a lot of good tal­ent up there and I just re­mem­ber my man­ager say­ing the Sharks are keen to get me.

Wal­ters lauded Holmes’s fin­ish­ing prow­ess af­ter his spec­tac­u­lar aerial dive to score his first try. He then pro­duced a su­perb jug­gle on the run to post his tre­ble.

“It was pretty freak­ish what he came up with,” Wal­ters said.

“It was like he was play­ing beach foot­ball, he caught the ball ( for his hat­trick) and some­how got it done.

“That’s the sort of player that he is. He has a long fu­ture here. If he keeps pro­duc­ing, he will be park­ing him­self in this team for a few years yet.”

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