Sharks’ surge fuelled by Holmes' hot streak
SURVIVING on massages and a leave pass from training, Valentine Holmes is on an unprecedented hot streak despite an agonising schedule that will see him line up for his fourth match in 16 days.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has showered Holmes with praise for his maturity and dedication ahead of Thursday night's massive clash with rival finals contender Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
Playing the equivalent of an NRL match every four days since Origin III, the in-form Sharks fullback will become the first player in two years to endure as many matches in as many days, against the Broncos.
Yet incredibly - with the aid of a deliberately modified training schedule, which has included massages and training just once before matches - Holmes has produced devastating numbers for top four hopefuls Cronulla, while also moving to second on the ladder for most tries in the NRL.
Indeed, just 48 hours after scoring two tries on the wing for Queensland in Origin III on July 11, Holmes backed-up for the Sharks to score two more tries in his side's round 18 win over Penrith.
What isn't known is that due to the travel involved following Origin III in Brisbane, Holmes only had time for a massage before joining his Cronulla teammates at Penrith.
Similarly Holmes, who turned 23 on Tuesday, was instructed by the highly-respected Sharks high performance staff to attend only team meetings and the captain's run before running riot against the Raiders last week.
Following the most dominant first-half of his fledgling fullback career, Holmes crushed his career-average runs (11.5) and running metres (128m) by finishing with a game-high 19 runs and 205m.
His first-half try took his tally to 15 tries for 2018, second only to South Sydney's Robert Jennings.
Told to have last weekend off to rest and recover following the Raiders, Holmes arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday having returned to the team's full training schedule on Monday.
Thursday's clash is the culmination of a massive month for Holmes with victory the motivation ahead of a body relieving 10-day turnaround before tackling Manly in round 21 at Shark Park.
He will become the first player to complete the torture test since five players from the Roosters and Broncos faced a similar task leading into Round 21, 2016.
Flanagan said he couldn't speak highly enough of Holmes' focus during the physically demanding period.
"Attitude-wise, Val has been faultless, and that is reflective of his form,'' Flanagan said.
"Coming out of the Origin series, even though Queensland lost the series, Val came out of that upbeat with the way he played for the Maroons.
"He brought that back to us against Penrith. To turn up 48 hours after an Origin match, where there's so much emotion and intensity and heavy collision, to then play like he did for us against the Panthers without a single training run with his teammates, is a sign of Val's maturity this year.
"That focus has really gone up a notch this year and so too, his maturity in what it takes to be a fullback in the NRL.
"He's really impressed me and the staff in that regard.
"Our staff have worked closely with Val to ensure he's ready on game-day as was the case before Canberra and again this week.
"Val is such an important part of what we do at Cronulla and as we've seen lately, when Val is in form - he's in very good form.
"The key for Val and all of us, is to keep focusing each week on what we have to do as individuals, so that collectively we come together as a team.
"We've got some very experienced players in this footy team who are continually searching for consistency in their own games every week and have done for many years now.
"That's the challenge for all our players and this footy team, to perform at our best consistently and I have no doubt we'll give ourselves a chance to win footy games.''