Cowboys urged to ramp up raid on Sharks star
JOHNATHAN Thurston has urged North Queensland bosses to ramp up their poaching raid on Valentine Holmes, declaring the Queensland Origin star can ignite the Cowboys in the post-JT era.
The retiring Thurston played his final home game in Friday night's 44-6 thumping of the Eels and there are fears the Cowboys may struggle to be a force without their greatest player.
But Thurston believes the acquisition of Cronulla ace Holmes can be the X-factor that helps Cowboys' $5 million man Michael Morgan spearhead a new era of success at North Queensland.
The Cowboys are quietly confident of securing Holmes' signature for 2020.
"Val would be a great signing," said Thurston, who enjoyed a fairytale farewell in his final home game on Friday.
"Val is a tryscoring machine and he would add a lot to our organisation, not only on the field but off the field as well.
"I'd love to see him back at the club."
A Townsville junior, Holmes was a schoolboy sensation for the Western Lions, but he slipped the net in 2013 after the Cowboys were trumped by a more lucrative offer from the Sharks.
But now North Queensland recruitment chiefs are plotting to bring the Maroons ace home.
As exclusively revealed by The Sunday Mail last month, the Cowboys have lodged an expression of interest in Holmes with his management.
The Sharks hit back last week, tabling a massive five-year package, worth more than $4 million, in a bid to keep Holmes in the Sutherland Shire until the end of 2023.
He is contracted until 2020 but has a 12-month option in his favour, giving him the chance to sever ties with Cronulla at the end of next season.
The Cowboys may struggle to match the Sharks' offer under the salary cap, but money is not the sole consideration for the 23-year-old.
Holmes' partner Natalia also has family ties in Townsville - her sister Brianna is engaged to Cowboys star Morgan - and is understood to be keen to return home.
Thurston was Queensland's five-eighth when Holmes made his Origin debut in Game Two of the 2017 series, giving the Sharks flyer an insight into the standards required to succeed at the top.
Thurston has since watched Holmes score 22 tries in 16 games for Queensland and Australia, and believes he would be a formidable strike weapon for the Cowboys.
"I did a bit of work with him in Origin," he said.
"The World Cup and State of Origin has given him that self-belief that he belongs in the rep arena.
"He just has this knack of finding the tryline."
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