Valentine Holmes has admitted how close he came to leaving Cronulla before realising how silly a move away from the NRL premiers would have looked.
Despite working out in front of NFL scouts in December, Holmes a fortnight ago re-signed with Cronulla on a two-year deal, keeping him in the NRL until the end of 2019.
Holmes, who is in Sydney nursing a hamstring issue while the rest of the team is in England for the World Club Challenge, said a shock exit from the Shire was a genuine possibility.
“It was very difficult. It took about four months to get the pen to paper. I pretty much left it to my manager and let him organise it all,” Holmes said.
“I didn’t think much to it, (but) I wanted to take the best option for myself and my family.
“It was pretty close. I was off-contract, others clubs were able to talk to me. In the end, we won a grand final with the Sharks, it’d look silly leaving a team that we won with.”
The 21-year-old is primed for a breakout year for the defending premiers as he attempts to fill the void left by former Dally M medallist Ben Barba at fullback following his move to rugby.
And he hasn’t given up hope of turning out in their season-opener against Brisbane, despite straining his hamstring in a trial against the Broncos two weeks ago.
“I did my first training session (on Wednesday) and it felt pretty cool,” he said.
“I’m not going to push it, but hopefully I get back for round one. If it’s not feeling 110 per cent, I’m not going to push it. It’s a long season. There’s plenty of games in the year.”
Holmes blamed the increased workload involved in acclimatising to the custodian role in pre-season as a major factor in his fitness concerns.
His fitness base was also low after only rejoining his club teammates in early January.
“I only got about four weeks under me. I started on the 7th of January. That’s what got to my hammy. It was a lot of high speed running, I wasn’t used to that,” he said.
“I did a lot of that at training and twinged my hammy a bit going into the game – that’s how I done it. It is a lot of running, you’ve got to be pretty fit and in defence.
“You’ve got to be able to be dominant in defence and control your forwards.”