Valentine Holmes has today requested an immediate release from his contract to pursue an NFL career.
The Sharks released a statement on Tuesday saying Holmes – who represented Queensland and Australia in 2018 – had requested, and been given an immediate release from the final year of his contract.
Holmes asked Sharks fans to understand his decision to leave the the NRL.
"I will be forever grateful to the Cronulla Sharks Football club and the Sharks fans for the past five years of support, it was a special moment we all shared winning the club's first ever NRL premiership," he said.
"I understand this decision may come as a shock to many but I personally believe it's the right time for me to challenge myself and pursue this NFL opportunity.
"Hopefully the fans can understand and support me as they have done throughout my career."
Cronulla have former international Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan on their roster who are capable of playing at fullback to replace Holmes.
If Holmes fails to land an NFL contract and returns to rugby league, he must play for the Sharks in 2019.
If his NFL dream fails to materialise, he will be an NRL free agent for the 2020 season and beyond as per his existing contract.
Sharks CEO Barry Russell said the club understood Holmes's decision.
"We are incredibly saddened to see him leave our club and exit the game of rugby league, however, we wish him all the best in pursuing his NFL career and hope one day he may again wear the Sharks colours," he said.
(this story has been updated to include NRL.com editorial)