AAP Rugby

Holmes’ plot to end Billy Slater’s career

By AAP Newswire

He craves being remembered among Cronulla's all-time greats but Valentine Holmes is putting his long-term future on hold as he focuses on ending the career of superstar friend and foe Billy Slater.

Holmes' fullback duel with Slater shapes as a highlight of Cronulla's blockbuster NRL preliminary final showdown with Melbourne as the 2016 grand finalists and arch rivals clash for a place in the 2018 title decider.

After a scintillating first season in the Sharks' No.1 jumper, Holmes has emerged as Slater's heir apparent for Queensland and possibly Australia when the retiring world player of the year hangs up his boots this season.

Without a pang of guilt, Holmes hopes that comes at AAMI Park on Friday night.

"He's obviously had a marvellous career. I don't think he'd be too disappointed," Holmes said when asked if he minded spoiling Slater's party.

"He's obviously won three or four grand finals, World Cups, Dally Ms, Origins, so he'd probably be a bit cut he's not in the grand final but I'm sure he'd be happy with the career he had.

"And we've got 'Lewie' (Luke Lewis) retiring so we've got to think about guys like him and send him out the way he deserves."

Holmes maintains the greatest respect for Slater.

"I've idolised him since I was a kid. He's obviously from up north as well where I'm from," he said after Cronulla's heart-stopping 21-20 semi-final win over Penrith on Friday.

"It's been pretty cool to play alongside him. I've learned a lot."

Such as the Slater-like play the 23-year-old produced in a game-changing flash of brilliance against Penrith.

When the Panthers drew level at 20-all with 12 minutes remaining, having trailed 18-0, Sharks fans feared the worst against the league's comeback kings.

Holmes, though, spied an opportunity and regained possession from his own kick-off to kill Penrith's momentum.

"I didn't tell anyone," Holmes said of the bold play minutes before Chad Townsend clinched Cronulla's victory with the winning field goal.

"We needed the ball back and I backed myself and was lucky enough to pull it off."

Cronulla are facing an almighty battle retaining Holmes beyond 2019 as North Queensland try to lure him back home to Townsville.

"I'm not too worried about my future at the moment. I'm still secure for next year so I've still got a job," he said.

Cronulla's' best hope of keeping their try-scoring machine rests with Holmes' desire to to rank alongside the club's legends.

"There's some pretty great players who have played in the Sharks," he said.

"It's going to be hard to beat. There's the Rogers boys, Ettingshausen, obviously, so I'd love to be noticed in that calibre.

"But I'm still only young. I've got a lot to work on."