Despite super coach Wayne Bennett captivating the media storm with his daring exit from the Brisbane Broncos’ first day of preseason, it was the Sharks’ Valentine Holmes who took the rugby league community by surprise this week with his stunning admission.
Valentine Calls it a Day
Despite rapidly developing into one of the NRL’s most promising young stars, 23-year-old Valentine Holmes will bid the code farewell in 2019 in an attempt to pursue a career in the NFL. When considering that he is not currently contracted or affiliated with the NFL, it is clear that the former superstar from the Cronulla Sharks, Queensland Maroons and Australian Kangaroos has taken a huge risk in the context of his career. Courtesy of his preseason work ethic, his tremendous 2018 season resulted in representative honours and 144 points, 22 tries and 9 try assists. Whilst his passion for NRL still remains, it is his burning desire for success and a fascination with the NFL that is the primary driver behind this change. His fateful trip to Los Angeles following the Sharks’ historic Grand Final win over the Melbourne Storm in 2016 is reportedly where his seeds of ambition were born. Undertaking a two-hour workout before numerous NFL pro-scouts ignited Holmes’ flame and set the foundation for his future endeavours. Whilst the sudden exit has created havoc within his former team and sent Sharks’ supporters into disarray, his courage and willingness to take a leap of faith must be commended.
Bennett’s Disappearing Act
Wayne Bennett’s return to Red Hill involved decoy cars, escape vehicles and above all – an unbelievable disappearing act. The farcical nature of the recent coaching saga involving Bennett and South Sydney Rabbitohs’ coach Anthony Siebold was exemplified by the extraordinary lengths Bennett endured to avoid the circus of the Brisbane Broncos’ media representatives. Whilst an immediate coaching swap ahead of the commencement of next season would have come as no surprise, the notion was discarded yesterday in accordance with the agreement made between the Broncos and Bennett to honour the current contract for 2019. In what has been described as a ‘great’ outcome for all parties, the coaching calamity appears to have finally ceased – with the mounting preseason distractions also coming to an end for the players. As it currently stands, Bennett and Siebold will remain the coaches of the Broncos and Rabbitohs, respectively, in 2019 as they fight to secure the NRL Premiership.
Whilst Josh McGuire’s sudden departure from the Brisbane Broncos has left a void of experience, it has been one of the buys of the season for the struggling North Queensland Cowboys. It is anticipated that McGuire’s constant mongrel and aggression will bolster the Cowboys’ line up in 2019 and inject the depth that they have been lacking. Effective use of his mobility and footwork, along with his combination with enforcers Jordan McLean, Coen Hess and Jason Taumalolo, is imperative if the Cowboys are to reinvigorate their success. From the perspective of the Broncos, whilst the 28-year-old forward has left a yawning gap in their line up, it has resultantly provided the Broncos’ crop of impressive young forwards with a golden opportunity to stamp their authority on the biggest stage of all. If utilised accordingly, the likes of Tevita Pangai Junior, Joe Ofahengaue, David Fifita, Jaydn Su’A and Payne Hass have the chance to form the nucleus of one of the most exciting and destructive forward packs in the competition. Although the Broncos will sorely miss the 194 game incumbent, they can move forward extremely confident that their young prodigies will be at the forefront of their quest for a seventh title.
Claiming the Newcastle Knights’ Player of the Year, winning the Players’ Champion accolade at the RLPA awards night and starring for the Queensland Maroons in his State of Origin debut, at only 20 years old, highlights the unfathomable talent that fullback Kalyn Ponga possesses. However, despite being a weapon from the back, it is reported that Ponga is set to switch from fullback to five eighth in 2019 – in a bid to enhance and ignite the Knights’ attacking prowess. Supporters have expressed concerns about Ponga’s influence on the game diminishing if he is restricted to the middle of the field. On the contrary, when considering the near match winning ability he exhibited in State of Origin II (2018) from the interchange bench, it is unlikely that a player of his calibre will allow himself to get lost in the contest. His willingness to work in tandem in the halves with Mitchell Pearce, whilst simultaneously building connections with his backrowers, will equip the Newcastle Knights well for success in 2019. In the context of his career, this transition has the potential to revolutionise the notion of being ‘versatile’.
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