Seething Sharks privately ‘dirty’ with Holmes
NRL superstar Valentine Holmes has reportedly left Cronulla teammates and officials furious after his NFL bombshell was revealed on Monday.
The star fullback stunned Australian sport when his intention to quit the NRL immediately to chase a career in the NFL was revealed, reportedly catching the Sharks by surprise.
Holmes arrived back in Australia this week after holidaying in the US and Cuba, where he conducted a series of training workouts at the Nike headquarters.
The 23-year-old reportedly met up with one NFL team during the trip, prompting his dramatic decision to chase a goal of getting signed by an NFL team for the 2019-2020 season.
Despite remaining contracted to the Sharks for the 2019 NRL season, Holmes was expected to announce his NRL future this week, weighing up mega-rich offers from the Sharks and Cowboys.
Despite being tabled the richest-ever deal in Cronulla history, reportedly worth $4 million over five years, Holmes was expected to sign with the Cowboys.
Holmes' interest in moving to North Queensland was at the centre of an intriguing potential player-switch after the Cowboys signed former Dally M medallist Ben Barba to a one-year deal for the 2019 season.
The Sharks were reportedly open to allowing Holmes to return to North Queensland on compassionate grounds because his partner, the sister-in-law of Cowboys star Michael Morgan, wants to be close to family near Townsville.
However, the good will of those negotiations surrounding a potential early release for Holmes has been violently turned on its head by Holmes' NFL aspirations.
Channel 9 reporter Danny Weidler reported on Tuesday morning that Cronulla players and officials felt "dirty" that Holmes appeared to have kept them in the dark of his true intentions.
"They were desperate to keep him, but they were happy for him to go back if it was for that reason," Weidler told Triple M's Grill team about Homes' partner's desire to return home.
"I can tell you that they are not happy now. If he is going to abandon the Sharks for the NFL, the good will that he had at Cronulla is totally gone. It's evaporated.
"The players are dirty. The officials are dirty and the coach is not happy. Given the way it's been happening, they fell it's been very, very poorly managed.
"They're questioning the advice he's been getting and they're angry about it.
"You can't blame him for wanting to chase it. The anger the Sharks have is with the way it's been done."
It follows reports coach Shane Flanagan only heard about Holmes' move when contacted by The Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield.
The Sharks released a statement on Monday, announcing they planned to schedule a meeting with Homes this week.
"In response to an on-line Daily Telegraph editorial, Sharks CEO Barry Russell will meet with Valentine Holmes and his management representatives in the coming days to discuss reports of his potential move to the USA and the NFL," the club statement claimed.
"The Sharks are not in a position to make any further comment at this time but will provide more details once they become available."
It follows speculation the Sharks' relationship with Holmes has "soured" following the high-stakes negotiations for his next contract.
Holmes' interest in the NFL has been labelled a "power play" to break his contract with Cronulla, before returning to the NRL to play with the Cowboys in 2020 - if he were unable to attract an offer from an NFL team.
"Is it a bit of a power play from him saying I don't want to come back and play for Cronulla," The Daily Telegraph's Michael Carayannis told Macquarie Sports Radio.
"He'd almost certainly agreed to go to the Cowboys for 2020 and this is his way (to get out) while Cronulla are releasing him to go and he gets a free shot at potentially playing in the NFL for 12 months and if it doesn't work out he'll be off the Cowboys for 2020.
"It could be a bit of a free kick for Val. If it doesn't work out he can go and get his million dollars (per season) at the Cowboys in 2020 as well.
"I'm not sure of the relationship between him and the Sharks if they've soured a little bit because of those negotiations. If this is his way of trying to get an early release from his contract, knowing that Cronulla won't release him early to go and play for North Queensland.
"This is his free shot to see if he can crack it in the NFL."
Despite the reports of friction between the club and Holmes, widespread reports claim Cronulla is moving to secure an agreement with Holmes that would block him from moving to a rival NRL club in 2019 if his NFL experiment falls over.
Flanagan declared just one day before Holmes' NFL dream was made public that the club would was happy to see him return to the Cowboys at the end of the 2019 season.
"We'll meet with him next week, and I fully understand if he wants to go home," Flanagan told Fairfax Media.
"We have to get on with it and support him. He's not the first player to go home.
"We love the kid, he's a fan favourite, he was in our grand final team and team of the half century.
"In the end, we need to have a good year with him next year, and if he goes, we'll support him."
That support may not exist anymore.