Holmes' development is key for Cowboys

Valentine Holmes has enjoyed a promising pre-season on his return to the NRL with the Cowboys.
Valentine Holmes has enjoyed a promising pre-season on his return to the NRL with the Cowboys.

The transition from NFL training with the New York Jets to the NRL pre-season in Townsville has not proved to be the extraordinary challenge many expected for Valentine Holmes.

North Queensland captain Michael Morgan watched his close friend through his year-long NFL journey and now has a front-row seat for his readjustment to rugby league with the Cowboys.

"When he first got back he was finding his feet a little bit in the game," Morgan said on Tuesday.

"Everyone talked about it being this huge transition for him but it wasn't really that long. People have longer off when they're injured and he was training and keeping fit the whole time.

"It hasn't taken too long, he's looking very good."

According to Morgan, the development of Holmes' ball-playing skills as a fullback has been the biggest focus of the pre-season, with a strong running game already a huge part of his skill set.

The Cowboys, who finished 14th on the NRL ladder last season, are keen to build cohesion through the spine this season.

After Ben Barba was sacked in the pre-season, the Cowboys churned through four fullbacks, five different five-eighths and three halfbacks thanks to a combination of injury, form and representative duties.

The most stable position was at hooker, where Jake Granville played all but one game.

Part of building stability is encouraging Holmes to ball play to take the pressure off skipper Morgan, who switched between the halves and fullback at various stages last year.

"It was a little bit of a rollercoaster. Some good, some bad," Morgan said about his own form in 2019.

"I feel like my strength has always been my running game and I probably lost that a little bit last year.

"The back end of last year I ran a lot more than I did through the season and they were some of my better games.

"I'll try and do that. That's been encouraged as well, to get that back into my game.

"It was always a strength and I probably went away from it trying to improve other areas."

Australian Associated Press