Valentine Holmes to get first crack at Cronulla Sharks fullback role ahead of Jack Bird

Flying to No.1: Cronulla's leading try scorer last season, Valentine Holmes, will get the first chance to replace Ben Barba at fullback. The Sharks start their title defence at home against Brisbane on March 2. Picture: John Veage

Flying to No.1: Cronulla's leading try scorer last season, Valentine Holmes, will get the first chance to replace Ben Barba at fullback. The Sharks start their title defence at home against Brisbane on March 2. Picture: John Veage

Valentine Holmes is the front runner to have the first shot at the vacant No.1 jersey at Cronulla but coach Shane Flanagan hasn’t ruled out Jack Bird – yet.

Holmes was given extra time off after representing Australia at the Four Nations, giving Bird the early inside running as the rest of the Sharks’ squad returned to training.

Flanagan told the club’s website he hadn’t made up his mind yet who would replace Ben Barba who was released after returning a positive drugs test.

Released: Ben Barba, pictured celebrating the grand final win, was released from his contract after returning a positive drugs test. Picture: John Veage

Released: Ben Barba, pictured celebrating the grand final win, was released from his contract after returning a positive drugs test. Picture: John Veage

“Well, Birdy’s got a head start there,” he said.

“Val (Holmes) is obviously, probably almost everyone’s first choice there at fullback but Birdy does that fullback role really well.

“He likes to roam both sides of the field. Unfortunately with him playing right centre sometimes he gets locked in there.

“From a team structure point of view, Val probably could be the best one. But I’m not striking Birdy off that list just yet.”

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