Holmes ready to end a legend
VALENTINE Holmes still remembers the first time he had a chance to speak with his idol Billy Slater.
The 12-year age gap between the pair allowed Holmes to grow up with Slater as one of his heroes. But the first interaction between the pair was less than remarkable for Holmes. Holmes was just three games into his career when an -plagued Cronulla were thumped 48-6 against the Storm in 2014.
"It wasn't the best time for the club," Holmes said. "We had basically a NSW Cup team and we got towelled up. I scored my first NRL try so I was happy about that.
"I went up to him after the game and said good luck. I was nervous (speaking to him). It was a pretty nerve-wrecking experience because Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk - the big three - they were all playing."
"I didn't have posters on my wall as a kid but I loved watching how he played. There are only a fair few that stood out when I was a kid. Billy, Matty Bowen and Karmichael Hunt.
"They are the three I loved watching the way they played."
Slater and Holmes will square off in Melbourne again on Friday night but much has changed for Holmes since that first clash. He has gone on to call Slater, Cronk and Smith teammates at representative level and played a hand in beating them in the 2016 premiership.
He also has his eye on Slater's No.1 jersey for the Kangaroos having shared a bond with Slater during last years world cup success.
"I've been lucky enough to play alongside him," Holmes said. "You don't always get to play alongside your childhood hero.
"He helped me out a lot when I played fullback against Lebanon with my communication with the boys in the middle. I learnt so much off him and Darius Boyd during the Four-Nations (in 2016).
"I've been lucky enough to play alongside some great fullbacks and learnt some little things they do and tried to implement them into my game."
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has little doubt about the impact Slater has had.
"This weekend a bloke at the end of his and a bloke who is just at the start," Flanagan said. "Billy has been the best fullback I've seen.
"He scored a try when we played them down there. We need to make sure we're on him."
As Slater's career winds down, his impact on the Storm is still as great as ever. He has laid on 14 try assists from 18 games, compared to Holmes' nine from 25 matches.
Slater is also touching the ball an average of 10 more times per game than his opposite No.1
Holmes said his game was evolving.
"I've got a lot to work on," Holmes said. " I don't know all the strings to being a good fullback yet. That's why Billy is the No.1. He has been for a while now.
" If I do get the chance to beat them it will mean a lot. You don't (often get a chance) to knock a team Melbourne out in a prelim final with guys like him retiring at the end of the year.
"It'll be a big ask. It'll probably be won in the 80th minute. We're expecting it to be like that."
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