Holmes isn't going anywhere: Flanagan
Valentine Holmes of the Sharks runs with the ball before scoring a try during the Round 20 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Thursday, July 26, 2018. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has predicted Valentine Holmes will one day overtake Andrew Ettingshausen as the club's greatest try-scorer and categorically ruled out granting him an early release.
Holmes has been linked with North Queensland and an early exit from the final season of his Sharks contract after Ben Barba announced his intention to return to Australia and the NRL next year.
The Townsville-born flyer will come up against the Cowboys on Saturday night and Flanagan guaranteed he would remain at the Sharks next year.
"There's less chance of me releasing Valentine Holmes out of his contract than there is of me playing for Australia at hooker during the end of the year Test matches," Flanagan told NRL 360.
"We'd be crazy to let him go."
Two years after Barba was forced out of the club for testing positive to cocaine, the Shire was seen as the premiership-winning No.1's most likely destination after getting his career back on track in the English Super League.
Flanagan had previously stated his desire for the former Dally M winner to return to the club however has since cooled on the idea.
Holmes started the year with question marks hanging over his head about his ability to handle the shift to fullback and whether wing was his best position - especially given his prolific showing in last year's World Cup.
However he has emphatically silenced his doubters and after 22 rounds heads the league's try-scoring list with 22.
He will run out for his 100th first-grade game against the Cowboys and has already notched 63 career tries.
That puts him on a trajectory to surpass Ettingshausen (165 tries in 328 games) as the club's leading try-scorer.
"At the start Benny Barba was teaching Val a lot about playing fullback," Flanagan said.
"Val over the last 12 weeks, he's really found his feet. He's enjoying his football and understanding how big the role is being an NRL fullback.
"He's got a lot of football in front of him, a lot of tries. He'll probably be the highest try-scorer for the Sharks in history the way he's going."
Holmes is off-contract at the end of 2019 and has yet to take up an extension offer from the Sharks, meaning he could head to the Cowboys in 2020.
Flanagan said the club had invested heavily in the Queensland and Test representative and given he was just 23, was hoping he would be the club's long-term fullback.
"Benny was a fantastic player for us. He'll always be remembered for what he did for us in 2016. It was a stellar season," Flanagan said.
"But we have have a salary cap. We'd like to see Valentine stay there long term."
© AAP 2018