WHEN the NRL player market officially opens on November 1, there will be one player in particular who will be the most sought after talent on the open market.
And there will be one suitor in particular who will move heaven and earth to secure him.
Valentine Holmes, the free-scoring winger-cum-fullback for the Cronulla Sharks, Maroons and Kangaroos, headlines a $ 20 million list of NRL stars who can officially decide their futures from Thursday onwards.
And The Courier-Mail has revealed that the North Queensland Cowboys will launch a monster raid to try and entice the Townsville-born Holmes back home.
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The newspaper is reporting that Holmes will be offered a package worth up to $ 3.6 million to turn his back on the Sharks after the 2019 season and head north.
He is contracted at Cronulla until 2020 but has a 12-month option in his favour.
The Cowboys have been linked with Holmes for the past six months. The Maroons ace is seriously considering quitting Cronulla, but has been unable to field a formal offer from the Cowboys until November 1.
The Courier-Mail spoke to Cowboys head-of-football Peter Parr on Wednesday and he confirmed that Holmes is well within their sights.
“We were waiting to see if Holmes was still available come November 1 and now that he is, we will have a discussion with his management,” Parr said.
“We will certainly be making contact with his management, Chris and Gavin Orr, and we will see where it takes us.
“We haven’t given much thought to what our offer would be, but now that Valentine is on the open market, I will have a discussion with ‘Greeny’ (Cowboys coach Paul Green).
“Val has plenty of mates there and he has played some outstanding football at Cronulla,” he added.
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“In my experience, it’s always hard to get good players to leave their incumbent club, especially if they are successful.”
It’s believed Holmes will be offered around $ 900,000 a season on a three- or four-year deal, although Parr wouldn’t discuss figures.
Cronulla are fighting tooth and nail to try and keep hold of Holmes, reportedly offering him a five-year extension worth more than $ 4 million but a deadline for a decision is in August.
“There will be a lot of interest in Val and come November 1 we will be open to discussions with all those who wish to secure his services,” Holmes’ manager Chris Orr said.
“It’s been a great year for Val and he is currently overseas enjoying a break from rugby league, so we won’t look to discuss his options until he returns.
“A lot has been said about the family attraction of the Cowboys for Val, which is true, but he has been at the Shire since he was 17, it’s not like Val is unhappy at Cronulla.
“We regard Val as a franchise player. He is extremely marketable, so this should be considered by any club wishing to secure his services.
“He has the X-factor to attract sponsors and fans to the game each weekend.”
KEY OFF CONTRACT NRL STARS
Luke Brooks (Wests Tigers), Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers), Mitch Aubusson (Sydney Roosters), Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters), Zane Tetevano (Sydney Roosters), Matt Dufty (Dragons), James Graham (Dragons), Kurt Mann (Dragons), Tariq Sims (Dragons), George Burgess (Souths), Tom Burgess (Souths), Damien Cook (Souths), Bevan French (Parramatta), Clint Gutherson (Parramatta), Mitch Moses (Parramatta), Corey Norman (Parramatta), Coen Hess (Cowboys), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Issac Luke (Warriors), Dylan Walker (Manly), Wade Graham (Sharks), Val Holmes (Sharks), Michael Lichaa (Bulldogs), Luke Bateman (Canberra), Jordan Rapana (Canberra), Alex Glenn (Broncos).