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Val Holmes knows better than most the tastes of the American sporting audience and thinks the NRL’s latest foray into the US market will help find new fans.

Holmes famously left the Sharks at the end of 2018 to pursue a dream of playing in the NFL, something he came mighty close to achieving after featuring for the New York Jets in their pre-season, before eventually returning to the NRL via the Cowboys in 2020.

“I definitely think it's a great move,” Holmes said of taking two Round 1 games to Las Vegas.

“I think everyone knows that's where the biggest sport in the world is played and is watched is in America especially; Super Bowl was there at that exact field a couple of weeks ago, so I think it's a pretty cool move from the NRL to be able to set this up.

“Hopefully this year goes well and the boys do a really good job promoting the game over there this week and put on good performance.

“And hopefully there's some big hits; that's usually what the Americans like, all the contact and the physicality side of it.”

Valentine Holmes lines up for a conversion.
Valentine Holmes lines up for a conversion. ©NRL Images

While it may not have the same bright lights appeal of Las Vegas, this weekend, Holmes will suit up for North Queensland for the first time this year as they travel to Seiffert Oval for their Pre-Season Challenge match against the Raiders on Sunday, with the star centre eager to get back on the field.

“It's just exciting, footy's back,” Holmes said.

“I think everyone probably in this building is over the pre-season.

“Obviously (the loss last week to the Broncos) wasn't the result we're after, but I thought there was a lot of good performances from some individuals and up until half-time, it was a pretty good effort against a pretty solid team.”

After failing to meet their own expectations last season, the Cowboys have revamped their style of play, with new assistant coaches Justin Morgan and James Maloney bringing different game styles with them to help coach Todd Payten implement an overhaul of their structures in defence and attack.

“We've changed our defensive system, so I thought we did really well with what we're working on here in the pre-season to take it to a game, we did well," Holmes said of how the young Cowboys performed in the opening Pre-Season Challenge match. 

“It's always going to be exciting to try new things and we've got a couple of new plays and the defensive structure, so I'm excited by it2, because we all like new challenges, it's going to be good for us.”

Zac Laybutt gets his first career double

The game against the Raiders will also be the first football played for youngster Zac Laybutt since being part of the victorious Pacific Championship Bowl final with the PNG Kumuls, with the Bundaberg junior likely to get the first opportunity to make the right centre spot made vacant by the departure of Peta Hiku his own.

“At the moment I think Buttsy [Zac Laybutt], he's probably got that (spot), he's been training really well and (going) up against him every training session, he's been testing me out, I've been testing him and he's doing really well inside and outside of Feldty [Kyle Feldt] and Chaddy [Chad Townsend],” Holmes said.

“Pretty eager to see how he goes.”


Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.