Why legend backs $5m NRL star’s slap in the face

Cowboys great Johnathan Thurston has backed coach Paul Green’s decision to shunt the club’s highest profile player to the wing in favour of an 18-year-old who’s played just three NRL games.

Just months after he signed a $5 million deal with North Queensland to play in his preferred position of fullback, Valentine Holmes finds himself giving up the No.1 jersey for Thursday’s match against the Roosters.

Instead, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will slot in at the back, the Australian Schoolboys’ representative described by Thurston as a star in the making.

Green acknowledged that Holmes has been struggling with an ankle injury and wasn’t moving as freely as he’d like, while also admitting he needed to bolster the team’s defence out wide.

But some will see it as a slap in the face for Holmes, who has made no secret of his desire to play fullback.

According to Thurston, Holmes can be just as effective on the wing.

“We’ve seen him play his best football there,” he told QLDER for Wide World of Sports.

“He wants to play fullback, there’s no doubt about it, and he’s been signed as a fullback.

“I think he’s had some injuries since he’s come back, so he’s still finding his feet. I think it’s a good call to put him on the wing at the moment, start getting him to take some of those tough carries out of the backfield, try and get the boys on the front foot.

“I’ve noticed he’s been handing the ball off to his wingers, he’s obviously playing with some injuries which isn’t great.

“I think it’s probably the right call for the Cowboys at the moment to play him on the wing.”

The Cowboys have won just one of their last five matches, and were thrashed 42-4 by competition leaders Parramatta last weekend.

Valentine Holmes of the Cowboys is tackled during the round three NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans (Getty)

They’re in the middle of a tough run, with this week’s match against the Roosters followed by a clash against Penrith.

Thurston was full of praise for Tabuai-Fidow, who has fitted in well since making his debut against the Warriors last month, but admitted there was still plenty of room for improvement.

“He’s an instinctive football player, we’ve seen that when he made his debut, he had some rushing defence come at him, (he) stepped around them, throwing the cutout ball to the winger for a try,” he said.

“He plays what he sees, he’s an instinctive player. No doubt defensively, getting the line organised, that’s where he needs to develop his game.

“But certainly he’s a future star.”

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