Valentine Holmes will enter an unlikely hometown State of Origin opener in full flight less than a year after fearing he would never rediscover his best rugby league form.
The North Queensland fullback laid on a try and then sweetly struck the match-winning field goal from 40 metres out at Townsville's Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Friday.
Next Wednesday he'll return to the ground with Queensland after a late venue switch from Melbourne, likely on the wing unless Kalyn Ponga (groin) or AJ Brimson (knee) are ruled out.
He soaked it up at Tuesday's annual fan day in Bundaberg, where a fire alarm set off by a Tina Turner impersonator's pyrotechnics set forced the squad out of a lunch function for 10 minutes.
It was a world away from bustling New York, where former Cronulla flyer Holmes spent 2019 attempting to crack the NFL with the Jets.
Back to play for the Cowboys in 2020, Holmes featured in last year's end-of-season Origin series win last year but even then he feared he'd never rediscover the form he'd once displayed for the Sharks.
"I definitely had doubts, especially last year with everything that happened on top of footy with COVID," Holmes, who scored eight tries in five Origin games before his NFL move, told AAP.
"Last year I was surprised at being picked but ... this year a new (Cowboys) coaching staff we're playing a little differently, to the team's strengths and it's working for a few of us and bringing out a good look in all of us."
Todd Payten has taken control of the Cowboys with former coach Paul Green now at the helm of Queensland.
Green has included both Kyle Feldt and Coen Hess as well as former Cowboy-turned Newcastle fullback Ponga, who along with Cameron Munster (foot) did not to travel to Bundaberg on Tuesday.
Both Hess and Feldt could be left out of the 18-man squad depending on fitness and the outcome of Felise Kaufusi's judiciary hearing on Tuesday evening.
"I hate coming into (Maroons) camps by myself, which is what I'd always done when I was at Sharks, I was always the only Queenslander there," Holmes said.
"It's good to see those guys come through and hopefully get a run.
"To play an Origin in Townsville (where Holmes grew up) will just be crazy; I know how excited everyone is back home and it'll be a big, busy week."