Sharks still won't guarantee Holmes the No.1 jumper

Steve Zemek
Sharks still won't guarantee Holmes the No.1 jumper

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has refused to guarantee Valentine Holmes the Sharks No.1 jumper with Josh Dugan on the cusp of returning and creating pressure for the coveted spot.

Holmes has been at his brilliant best since being moved into his preferred position and made a bold statement about his desire to be the club's long-term NRL fullback.

Questions were raised about his future after the club publicly expressed their interest in former premiership-winning fullback Ben Barba.

Holmes was then linked to North Queensland, with Flanagan subsequently emphatically ruling out releasing the 23-year-old.

Since being one of Queensland's standouts in this year's Origin series loss, Holmes has been at his game-breaking best in his last five appearances in the Sharks No.1 jumper.

Over that period he has run for 200-plus metres on two occasions and is now second in the league for tries (15) and linebreaks (16).

Holmes wants the No.1 jumper but is he ever going to own it? Pic: Getty

He was accused of looking disinterested after being shifted to the wing earlier in the year in favour of Dugan.

But with Dugan sidelined by a leg injury, he has played some of his best football at the back for the Sharks over the last several weeks.

"He played well in Origin and he came out of it with that confidence, a bit of a spring in his step," Flanagan said.

"The thing I've seen in Val is he's been given the opportunity because of Duge's injury and he's done a really good job.

"He's really matured in that role, we've all been hoping that he took those steps."

Dugan has missed the last two months because of a leg problem and Flanagan said he would have returned on Thursday against Brisbane had he had a few more days' recovery time.

Dugan is now expected to be back for next Sunday's clash with Manly.

"If (this week) was maybe a Saturday or Sunday game he might have been more of a chance," Flangan said.

"Without any hiccups, he'll be right for next week."

Despite acknowledging Holmes' stellar efforts in the No.1 jumper of late, he couldn't guarantee that he would stay there when Dugan returns.

"I'll pick that team next week," Flanagan said.