Holmes will stay at the back
CRONULLA coach Shane Flanagan will ignore stinging criticism of Valentine Holmes and retain him at fullback for Thursday night's massive local derby against St George Illawarra.
Following a poor round-one performance in the Sharks' 20-14 loss to North Queensland, former NSW five-eighth Matthew Johns and NSW coach Brad Fittler were vocal opponents of Holmes being chosen at fullback instead of the wing.
Johns said Holmes was the "best winger in the world" and should immediately switch to the flank, where he has excelled for the Sharks, Queensland and Australia.
Flanagan however has indicated he will retain Holmes in the No.1 jersey but a late switch may be on the cards with the Sharks blessed several alternatives.
Either five-eighth Matt Moylan and centre Josh Dugan could revert back to the familiar No. 1 jersey, meaning veteran half Trent Hodkinson or 20-year-old three-quarter Jesse Ramien could come into the side.
Kyle Flanagan, the son of the Sharks' coach, is due back next week from a broken hand and will also come into consideration as the season progresses.
Former South Sydney winger Aaron Gray is another option.
"Val will be named in the team at fullback," Flanagan said.
"That's all I can tell you.
"Every player is subjected to criticism and he didn't play well. He is a Test player now and has to live up to the expectations.
"But I was disappointed with a lot of players. I'm not going to single Val out. He didn't have his best game but he had some friends in that area."
Wherever Holmes plays on Thursday evening, there is little doubt he will be placed under immense pressure from the Dragons, who scored a 34-12 first-up win over Brisbane last week.
Johns questioned why Holmes wouldn't be selected in the wing position where he experienced so much success in Australia's World Cup win late last year, scoring 12 tries.
"(The Sharks) were a little scratchy," Johns said.
"My disappointment was from Valentine Holmes at fullback. I said it on Thursday night, he isn't a fullback, he's a winger.
"The things we keep hearing from his management is they want him to play fullback because he wants a fullback's money - well that's bulls..t.
"If your best serve has been on the wing, and for mine he's the best winger in the world, then that's where you've got to play him."
Flanagan denied Holmes was guaranteed the fullback spot when he re-signed with the club.
"When we signed him at the end of 2016, it wasn't based on him playing on the wing or at fullback," Flanagan said.
"We were still only two points behind against North Queensland with four minutes remaining."