Sharks and Kangaroos superstar Valentine Holmes set a World Cup record on Friday night by scoring five tries against Samoa. He did so playing in the unfamiliar left wing position, having spent the 2017 season in the number one at club level.
The performance has Sharks fans debating as to where Holmes will provide the most benefit when he returns to the Shire in 2018. The Sharks have a far more experienced and more accomplished ball-playing option available in Matt Moylan, as well as former NSW fullback Josh Dugan.
Despite emerging as a very serious contender for being the best winger in the game, Holmes made it very clear in the post-match interview that he wants to remain at the back for the Sharks.
The Sharks did re-sign him based on the belief he would play in the custodian role and paid him as such. He reportedly signed a deal worth around $800,000 a season.
If the Shire-based club is able to entice Roosters and NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce to the club, there is a very good chance that Holmes would move to the wing to allow Moylan to play in the number one.
Although that is a long way from being anything approaching a certainty, what is for sure is that Holmes would then become, by far, the game’s most highly paid winger. I’d imagine his pay packet would trump anything earned by a centre, perhaps only matched by teammate Josh Dugan.
The possible switch presents an interesting question, just how much are world class wingers worth in 2017 and beyond?
More-so than ever the number two and fives are playing a hugely important role in the current game. Wingers such as Josh Mansour and Suliasi Vunivalu start sets off on such impactful fashion that kickers actively avoid them.
We have seen in the past two weeks just how important David Fusitu’a has proven for Tonga. I would argue he was again the difference on Saturday afternoon for the World Cup darlings.
Lebanon was able to match the Tongans across so many aspects in their quarter-final clash, but they had no answer for The Fus. New Zealand will have nightmares for many months following the damage he inflicted.
It’s no coincidence that last year’s runaway Minor Premiers and Premiers, the Storm, had two destructive wingers at their disposal. Vunivalu and Addo Carr were both try scoring machines, with neither relying on catch and fall over the line efforts.
Dane Gagai was a huge difference in the Origin arena. He won the player of the series and spanked his opposite number Blake Ferguson across the three games.
This season, the Sharks really missed having Valentine Holmes on the wing. Ben Barba’s absence was the real difference as Holmes was unable to replicate his incredible try-assist tally, but the Sharks could not find anyone like Holmes to fill his position on the right flank.
With all due respect to the likes of Feki and Beale, neither have the game-breaking ability and class that Holmes has in spades.
I don’t think anyone would consider paying a winger $800,000, but it’s become obvious that Holmes is most lethal on the wing. The Sharks play a game where they need their fullback to play as a third half in the attack.
Matt Moylan is at his best in that role. He topped 20 try assists in 2016.
If the Sharks sign Pearce to partner Townsend in the halves, Moylan will certainly move to fullback, Holmes to the wing. That is the Sharks best chance of a Premiership in 2018. There can be no argument for that.
I would also argue that the dangers presented by Holmes on the wing would negate any thoughts of him being overpaid if shifted.
Sure $800,000 is a ridiculous amount of money to pay someone who doesn’t touch the ball in every set, but I can tell you from experience that fans care a whole lot less about who gets paid what during Grand Final celebrations.
Do you think a single Sharks fan would bat an eye at Holmes being the highest paid winger in the game if he were to put on another 20 tries and collect his second premiership ring?
Not a chance.
Semi Radradra could realistically command over half a million dollars a season, easily, upon a return to rugby league. You tell me the Knights wouldn’t be happy to sign a cheque for $800,000 to bring the game-winning superstar to the Hunter.
A few seasons ago we saw the emergence of centres as game winners. Inglis, Gasnier, Lyon just to name a few. They all benefited as a result. Now it is the winger’s turn.
Holmes, Vunivalu and Mansour are probably the three best wingers in the game. I wouldn’t care for a second if my club were to offer up huge to ensure one or more of those stars lined up in the club colours.
Although I don’t expect wingers to be able to start demanding million dollar contracts, world-class wingers certainly set teams apart. As a result, I do expect to see some big money being thrown around in the next few seasons.
Josh Mansour is off contract as we speak. I doubt a contract worth $250,000 will keep him at Penrith.
I hugely admire Valentine Holmes for wanting more involvement and back himself to play fullback, but right now I don’t think anyone can argue that his most lethal position is outside Josh Dugan.