He’s gutted to see him go, but Cronulla co-captain Wade Graham has “nothing but respect” for Valentine Holmes and and his attempt to make it in the NFL.
“I’m actually in the NFL Fantasy Football together, me and Val, and there’s a few boys at the club – a couple of boys who have moved on who are in – so come next year we might be drafting him into our teams, so that will be funny,” Graham revealed after learning on Holmes’s decision.
Holmes had a season to go on his contract at the Sharks, who had hoped to retain the star fullback for a further five years beyond that on a deal that would have made the try-scoring sensation the highest-paid player in the club’s history.
But Graham bears no ill-feeling towards his 2016 grand final-winning teammate, despite only being alerted by a text message on Tuesday.
“I checked my phone and there was a message to the boys,” Graham said.
“Obviously a lot’s happened in the last 48 hours and it wasn’t ideal. He expressed that in an ideal world he would have loved to have had a chat to the boys before anything came out.”
“But he’s been on leave; he hasn’t been at training so the circumstances just didn’t work out for him but he has reached out to us.”
The Sharks accepted Holmes’ request for a release on the condition he only played for them in 2019 if his American dream didn’t pan out.
“It’s bittersweet as a club. He’s coming off a season where he was our best player by a long way, he’s been an integral part of our success for the last few years,” Graham said.
“As a teammate and from a club’s perspective, he’s going to be a big hole for us to fill.”
“But, on a friendship level, and the challenge that he’s accepted to go and try his hand in the NFL, we wish him all the best.”
“It’s going to be exciting to watch his journey and see how far he can take it.”
“It’s a big challenge. He’s obviously confident in his ability and, if Val backs himself, I’m happy to support him.”
“You can’t help but respect someone who will get out of their comfort zone, turn their back on a really lucrative deal to take a chance on such a big challenge.”
“I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”