Josh Dugan has spent plenty of time at fullback. Picture by Brett Costello.
Josh Dugan has spent plenty of time at fullback. Picture by Brett Costello.

Top contenders to replace Val Holmes

VALENTINE Holmes is off to America to try and make it in the NFL in what promises to be one of the biggest sports stories of the year.

But Cronulla now have one concern on their minds - replacing their fullback, talisman and most dangerous attacking player.

Here's where the black, white and blue could go while Holmes is learning about the pigskin.

Matt Moylan

Moylan spent a little bit of time at fullback for the Sharks in his first season with the club and made his name at the back for the Panthers. He's talented but a little limited as a custodian - while his ball-playing is beyond reproach his running game sometimes isn't all it could be.

Matt Moylan is poised to make his return. Picture by Brett Costello.
Matt Moylan is poised to make his return. Picture by Brett Costello.

Cronulla found their best football with Moylan in the halves and it is reportedly his preferred position. However if Cronulla want to replace Holmes in-house, Moylan may be their best option given they have one of the best halves prospects in the game Kyle Flanagan, son of Shane, waiting in the wings.

Alex Johnston

Despite the strides he made as a fullback under Anthony Seibold there have been consistent reports that Johnston's future at South Sydney is far from certain. The arrival of young gun Corey Allan and Wayne Bennett's looming spectre are further variables surrounding the 23-year-old, who has requested a meeting with Bennett to clarify his future.

Johnston may be available. Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images.
Johnston may be available. Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images.

Cronulla will have a fair bit of salary cap space to work with and Johnston is a proven tryscorer at the highest level. However he is still developing as a fullback, particularly as a ballplayer, and isn't quite the finished product yet. But he does seem to be the most established NRL fullback who may currently be available.

Jack Bird

Part of the reason Bird left the Sharks at the end of 2017 was to seek a role beyond the centres. There was no room for him in the Cronulla spine at the time but that's clearly changed and the fullback spot could be a good fit for Bird should he leave Brisbane.

Bird has played one NRL match at fullback and spent some time there in the lower grades.

Could Bird come back to Cronulla? AAP Image/Glenn Hunt.
Could Bird come back to Cronulla? AAP Image/Glenn Hunt.

On the surface he has the skill set and the athleticism to make the transition but there are a couple of obstacles - he's struggled to avoid injury in recent seasons and securing a release from the Broncos will be easier said than done despite his struggles in Queensland. He's the option with the most risk but also the most upside.

Josh Dugan

Dugan linked up with the Sharks because they recruited him as a centre rather than a fullback, a move Dugan wanted to make to prolong his career. In an injury-riddled first season with Cronulla, Dugan switched between fullback, centre and wing. He's a known commodity at the back and has represented New South Wales there in the past.

 

Josh Dugan is a potential No.1 for the Sharks. (AAP Image/NRL)
Josh Dugan is a potential No.1 for the Sharks. (AAP Image/NRL) SUPPLIED

While Dugan's struggles as a ballplayer are well known he's a robust kick returner and always runs the ball well. If he was to move to fullback it could open the door for highly rated youngster Bronson Xerri to secure a spot in the centres. As it stands, Dugan seems the safest of Cronulla's options.

William Kennedy

Kennedy is yet to make his NRL debut but he's a classy player who has performed well at Under 20s and NSW Cup level. The son of bush footy legend and former Balmain Tiger William "Bubba" Kennedy, the Bathurst junior was a standout in Cronulla's minor-premiership winning Holden Cup side in 2017.

He took the next step this season, starring at the back for Newtown in NSW Cup while training with Cronulla's top squad. A wonderfully balanced and graceful runner, Kennedy was the Jets' leading tryscorer and while he's low on experience he's one of the most exciting prospects at the club.