Gallagher Kangaroos winger Valentine Holmes is eager to repay the faith coach Mal Meninga has shown by selecting him for the Pacific Championships, despite almost three months passing since he last played a game.
A one-game suspension served during Australia’s opening game against Samoa – following an NRL Integrity Unit investigation into a social media post he published in September – came after Holmes was banned for the final four games of the Cowboys’ season for a high tackle.
After initially believing the lack of football at the back end of the year would cost him a spot in the national team, the 28-year-old expressed his gratitude towards Meninga ahead of taking the field against the Kiwis in Melbourne on Saturday night.
“It’s been 10 or 11 weeks since I played a game of footy, so to see the trust [he has in me]… he still obviously believes in me and that gives me the confidence to do what I can do,” Holmes said.
“Past [the Prime Minister’s XIII game] he gave me another call and still was wanting me to be in the camp, not knowing what would happen with the suspension.
“Over the weeks he kept keeping in touch with me.
“There are plenty of guys that can play on the wing and centres… for him to have the trust to back me and do the job even though I couldn’t play the first [game], it shows what I can do for him and what I have done in the past wearing this jersey.
“I have got to repay him and all the coaching staff and boys… also my club and family. I can’t wait to get back out on the footy field and show some positive.
It’s been a big learning curve. I have learned from it and am ready to move on.Valentine Holmes
Despite not playing beyond Round 22 of the NRL season, Holmes has kept training right through and took part in sessions alongside North Queensland’s other international players in order to be ready for the Pacific Championships.
Prior to his high tackle suspension he had enjoyed a strong season with the Cowboys and appeared in all three Ampol State of Origin matches for the Maroons, scoring two tries.
With Holmes expected to line up on the left edge for the Kangaroos on Saturday, a showdown awaits with in-form Kiwis winger Jamayne Isaako, who scored two tries in New Zealand’s 50-0 hammering of Toa Samoa last weekend.
Kiwis v Toa Samoa - Week 2, 2023
Following on from a thrilling clash with New Zealand in last year’s World Cup semi-finals, which saw him score a try in Australia's 16-14 win, Holmes said his side are anticipating another close one against their trans-Tasman rivals, who they will meet again on November 4 in the Pacific Championships final in Hamilton.
“We have actually done a bit of footage from that [World Cup] game, even though it was last year,” Holmes said.
“We watched them play against Samoa last week, they played well, defended well and put some points on.
“We are expecting it to be probably another tight one.”
Match: Kangaroos v Kiwis
Week 3 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne