Justin Hodges believes Valentine Holmes will walk straight back into the Queensland team. Photo: AAP Image/Michael Chambers
Justin Hodges believes Valentine Holmes will walk straight back into the Queensland team. Photo: AAP Image/Michael Chambers

Holmes puts Maroons backline on notice

MAROONS legend Justin Hodges has declared Queensland's entire backline is on notice following the return of Origin try-scoring sensation Valentine Holmes.

Holmes quit his brief dalliance with the NFL last week to take up a six-year contract with the North Queensland Cowboys.

The 24-year-old's return to the NRL is a huge boost for the Maroons after Holmes missed this year's entire State of Origin campaign as Queensland slumped to back-to-back series defeats.

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Holmes has scored eight tries in five appearances on the wing for Queensland since making his debut in Game Two of the 2017 series.

He is on track to eclipse Origin's greatest ever tryscorer Greg Inglis (18 tries in 32 games) if he can maintain his incredible strike rate.

 

Holmes will play fullback for the Cowboys but is in the mix to feature either on the wing for Queensland or in the Maroons' No.1 jersey.

Hodges is an assistant to Maroons coach Kevin Walters and said Holmes would put pressure on the likes of winger Corey Oates and fullback Kalyn Ponga to retain their jerseys.

Queensland need to put the past two years behind them. Photo: AAP Image/Darren England
Queensland need to put the past two years behind them. Photo: AAP Image/Darren England

"I'm very happy (Holmes is back) and I think Kevvie would be happy," Hodges said.

"We missed his experience on the wing. He puts a lot of other guys under pressure as well to perform.

"Big Corey Oates has been good there. Having Val come back will put more pressure on him.

"With Will Chambers leaving, that centre spot is available. We could move Dane Gagai in then that frees up a spot for Val.

"We'll just have to wait and see. He's been out of the game for a little bit.

"I'm super excited to have him back in rugby league. The last couple of years he's shown how good he is."

Ponga, 21, was Queensland's custodian for the opening two games of this year's series before injury forced Walters to shift Cameron Munster from five-eighth to fullback for the decider.

Munster, who plays five-eighth for Melbourne, was sensational at the back as the Dragons' Corey Norman made his Origin debut at No.6.

Having lost two consecutive series, the Maroons are open to making changes and Hodges said Queensland hopefuls would have to start the year on fire to guarantee selection.

Will Holmes be the weapon Walters needs? Photo: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
Will Holmes be the weapon Walters needs? Photo: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

"It's going to be hard (to pick the team)," he said. "You want guys putting pressure on each other.

"Cam Munster played fullback in game three and was electric. Corey Norman was outstanding at five-eighth.

"Those guys have to hit the ground running. They have to put their hands up and make sure the selectors and Kevvie find a spot for them.

"The most important thing is having all our guys playing well and figuring out where to put them all.

"We're going to need our best 17 to compete with NSW. They've won the last couple of years. We want to bring the trophy back."

The 2020 Origin series will kick-off at the Adelaide Oval on June 3, before moving to Sydney (June 21) and finishing at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane (July 8).