Sharks anger: Holmes’ walkout done ‘the wrong way’
Cronulla skipper Wade Graham says Valentine Holmes handled his abrupt decision to walk out on the Sharks to pursue an NFL career "the wrong way".
Holmes will square off against his former club for the first time on Saturday night since quitting the Sharks at the end of the 2018 season despite being offered the richest deal in Cronulla's history.
It was the timing of Holmes' decision which irritated his Cronulla teammates and prompted then captain Paul Gallen to declare Holmes should be banned from the NRL potentially for life.
While Graham did not echo Gallen's sentiments he did feel Holmes would liked to have handled his exit differently had he had his time again.
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"I thought Val was let down by his management with the way it happened," Graham said.
"No one would've begrudged him a thing if he wanted to go and do what he did. But the way it all happened, there was a lot of fallout because he left us in a hole.
"If his management and himself had been upfront there would've been no dramas.
"They took it to the death. It was just handled the wrong way. If they could go back in time and change the way they handled it I'm sure they would handle it differently.
"At the end of the day it is what it is. Life goes on, it happens all the time across rugby league."
Graham naturally took a keen interest in Holmes' NFL exploits. While Holmes could managed to gain a place on the New York Jets' practice squad, Graham hoped Holmes would have stuck with the NFL a little longer.
He knew that once Holmes signalled his intentions to return, Cronulla was no longer a viable option.
"You can't share a dressing room with someone for so long and not be excited by what he did over there," Graham said.
"He went across the world to challenge himself in the NFL.
"I wish he would've stuck at it longer. I know it's a hard, cutthroat business over there. I don't know much about the inner-workings and Val would've naturally had a better gauge with how he was tracking.
"He can't have been too far behind any of their best athletes. He couldn't have been.
"If he had given it a bit of time and maybe got an opportunity somewhere who knows what could've happened.
"Once we signed Shaun (Johnson) we knew there was no chance he would've been able to come back to us."
Much has changed for the Sharks since Graham and Holmes combined for the club's historic 2016 premiership title and later spots in Cronulla's team of the half century.
They will be the only members Cronulla's premiership winning team to take to the field on Saturday night with Graham's teammates Chad Townsend (hamstring) and Andrew Fifita (calf) ruled out.
The Sharks are winless at the bottom of the premiership ladder while the Cowboys have won back-to-back matches with an ever-improving Holmes.
"He is a class player," Graham said.
"We all know that, that's why we were so disappointed in losing him.
"This is the first time I've thought about it. There has been a lot of things going on this year.
"He will be a big part of our preparation. He is a quality player. He came back in tremendous shape and is looking really good.
"Once they get that combination with Scott Drinkwater - who I think is a gun - firing they will be a dangerous team."
Despite being only three rounds in, Graham has labelled the match in Townsville as near must-win for the Sharks finals hopes.
"You're chasing your tail if you're going 0-4," Graham said. "We're backed into a corner now and it's no-one fault except ours."
Originally published as Sharks anger: Holmes' walkout done 'the wrong way'