Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes.

Less than a minute on the clock, with a 29-year-old back-rower moonlighting on Cronulla's wing. Happy no doubt remain out of sight and out of mind while filling in out of position.

In a Cronulla side boasting more experience than any NRL rival, Valentine Holmes counts four-on-four down a short side, and overcalls his playmakers to swing play back against the grain.

Bullets a 15-metre pass in front of three defenders, puts Jayson Bukuya over in the corner and truly arrives as a fullback in the eyes of his teammates.

The Cowboys are looming large on the horizon for Holmes, with a multi-million-dollar bidding war slated for this summer between the Queensland club and a Sharks outfit hellbent on keeping him.

But it was against North Queensland last month that the competition's hottest property fired the shot that still rings loud in The Shire – even with an eventual 28-16 win already in the bag.

"Val probably wouldn't have done that last year," halfback Chad Townsend said during the lead-up to Friday's sudden death showdown with Penrith.

"Seeing him do that, execute, call the ball and demand it and fire to the winger, that's a real big stepping stone in the evolution of his game.

"Immediately I went up to him and said 'mate, don't take that lightly, that's a big step for you'.

"That was the moment I thought he's developing into a fullback… The biggest thing I have noticed is that he has found his voice a lot more."

Holmes' dynamite running game has long had him pencilled in as a future representative-level custodian, with his 25 line breaks this year the best in the NRL and his 21 tries a Cronulla record.

His ball-playing and defensive development were the question marks earlier this year when he was being shuffled back out wide and by his own admission, "wasn't playing good footy".

But close study of Maroons maestro Billy Slater in Queensland camp and weekly playmakers meetings in the bowels of Shark Park have brought the 23-year-old flyer's voice to the fore.

"In this team there's a lot of older players that have a voice in the team," Holmes said.

"I'm only still pretty young and I don't want to come to the team thinking that I'm all that. I wanted to bide my time.

"Everyone always told me to talk up more but that wasn't my persona so I've learnt that now coming out of Origin, listening to Billy (Slater) and those older boys talk a lot.

"I knew that you've got to be a talker to be a leader so Chaddy has been helping me out a lot with my communication at the back, leading the forwards around.

"I definitely feel like that's why I'm playing better, just my communication."

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