Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has described Valentine Holmes’ decision to cut short his time in the NRL to pursue a career in the NFL as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for Rugby League fans.
Holmes stunned the code on Tuesday (November 20) when he announced he was leaving Cronulla Sharks despite having another year to run on his contract to try his hand at American football.
“There’s a lot of people who watch the game and support the game and there’s got to be a commitment to them,” Fittler told NSWRL.com.au
“That’s what’s special about sport. You get to play a game for your living and people cheer for you, and it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth to them.
“Val’s only 23. It’s not the end of the world to play one more year and that would have had a lot more credibility.”
Holmes’ decision was also criticised by True Blue and Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen, who called on the NRL to ban him for at least two years for leaving the Sharks in the lurch for 2019.
The 23-year-old Australian and Queensland winger had been linked to North Queensland Cowboys when his deal expired at Cronulla, and the Sharks only agreed to the early release on the grounds he returned to their club in 2019 if his NFL dream failed.
While Fittler wished Holmes well, he said he never contemplated doing anything else when he played Rugby League due to his love of the game.
“I never had an ambition to play NFL, soccer, rugby union,” Fittler said.
“I don’t know whether I felt like I owed the game but I love the game so it never crossed my mind.
“Kids are full of ambition these days and they want to go and test themselves but it’s disappointing they commit to an organisation that goes out of their way and places trust in them and they walk away from that.
“That seems to be the nature of the beast, not just from a players’ point of view these days but coaches and clubs so it’s hard to be too critical of players in that position when it seems like everyone is doing it.
“But if I’m the Queensland coach or the Cronulla coach the only thing I want to hear is a player say they’re committed and want to play for me.”
Fittler said he didn’t expect the Maroons would have too many problems trying to replace Holmes, who would have been in line to take over at fullback following the retirement of Billy Slater.
Newcastle young gun Kalyn Ponga is another option to wear the No.1 jumper although there has been speculation he will play five-eighth at Newcastle, while options on the wing for the Maroons include Corey Oates and Kyle Feldt.
“He’s (Holmes) been very good for them and there was a time where people kept playing footy to play for Queensland,” Fittler said. “That seems to have a little bit of its polish.
“They’ve got plenty of good players who can step up but I’m not really worried about them.”