Slater keeps Holmes on hold in race to be No.1
RUGBY LEAGUE: Billy Slater has poured cold water over Valentine Holmes' dream of succeeding him as first-choice fullback for Queensland and Australia.
Holmes has had a freakish fortnight in the Rugby League World Cup, twice breaking the tournament try-scoring record as he racked up 11 tries - five in the quarter-final and six in the semi.
The 22-year-old has been the Kangaroos' most potent finisher as coach Mal Meninga's side has stamped its authority on an otherwise very even knockout stage of the competition.
But somewhat paradoxically, Holmes' stunning performances on the flank are only adding weight to the argument that he should go back there permanently after a sub-par season at fullback for Cronulla - at least for a player of his talent and hefty pay packet.
After blitzing the Fijians, Holmes again admitted his ultimate goal was to succeed Slater in the green and gold No.1 jersey.
However, Slater believes there are other candidates who are still in front of him.
"Darius Boyd presented our jerseys to us this week and I think he's probably the next in line,” Slater said.
"He's done the job in the last couple of years and he's a fantastic fullback, a pretty complete one at that.
"The younger guys like Tommy (Trbojevic) and Val, they're still working on becoming an all-round good fullback and they're going to do that.
"They're tremendous players, they're very talented players. I know when I first came in to play in the NRL, I wasn't a complete fullback.
"It takes time to build all those skills.”
Holmes is already one of the most dangerous ball runners in the game and Meninga rates him one of the greatest finishers he's ever coached.
However, his shift to fullback for Cronulla revealed some weaknesses in his game that still need some work, with his numbers in several key attacking areas well down on Ben Barba, the man who wore the No.1 jersey in the club's 2016 premiership team.
Slater identified Holmes' ball playing and his talk as two areas that need to improve before he can be considered for the fullback spot in representative sides.
"Yeah, look it's a position where you've got to be skilled in a lot of areas,” Slater said.
"Talking is one and with the young guys these days, they're quite shy. You're playing with Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk and it's not easy to be dominant with your talk and you've got to be dominant and got to be instructional with where you want players at certain times.
"And that just comes over time. They'll build that.
â€œObviously the other thing is theyâ€™re great runners of the footy, the young guys coming through these days.
â€œI was a bit like that as well. I was a runner of the footy and I had to develop a passing game. I had to work on my defence to work out positional play and focus on the opposition kickers.
â€œSo thereâ€™s a lot involved, but theyâ€™re very capable of doing that, Valentine Holmes and big Tommy. Theyâ€™re going to be great players for Australia in the future.â€
Despite his ambition, Holmes is happy to bide his time and continue to learn off Slater and the other Kangaroos veterans.
"I probably see my dream to play fullback,” Holmes said.
"I still think (Billy's) got a couple more years in him, he's going really well. I'm just happy to learn from him and take in everything I can.”