Valentine Holmes admits he was surprised to be brought back into Mal Meninga's Kangaroos side in the wake of his controversial white powder scandal. The Cowboys and Maroons star was slapped with a one-game ban and $25,000 fine after sharing a picture of him holding a bag containing white powder between his teeth in September.
The suspension saw the NRL star Australia's first Pacific Championships clash against Samoa in Townsville, before he was drafted back into the Kangaroos' squad ahead of Saturday's Test against New Zealand in Melbourne. Meninga's decision to recall Holmes for Australia sparked some backlash across the rugby league world, with Selwyn Cobbo the player to make way for the North Queensland flyer.
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NRLW star Millie Elliot was among those fans to question Holmes' inclusion, claiming he wasn't in top form to finish the season before his eventual suspension. "We know he is such a great player. I can't really wrap my head around that selection," Elliot said on Triple M Radio. "I just think it's controversial. I think there are other players that have done well all year."
— Triple M NRL (@TripleM_NRL) October 24, 2023
Speaking about his Kangaroos recall, Holmes himself admitted that he didn't expect to be picked for Australia in the wake of the scandal and the fact he hasn't played for more than two months, with the Cowboys missing out on the NRL finals. "I didn't think he'd select me," Holmes said about Meninga.
"Obviously, I'd been doing a lot of training, it's just the games I've been missing out on; it's been almost 10 or 11 weeks since I've played footy. To see the trust he has instilled in me to pull on this jersey in this game, especially for this one, my next one is my 20th Test and it's a pretty big milestone for me."
Valentine Holmes breaks silence on white powder scandal
Breaking his silence on the white powder scandal, Holmes declined to go into detail about the contents of the bag after deflecting back to his initial statement. "I gave my statement to the integrity unit, the NRL and the club," the 28-year-old said. "So I'd prefer to leave it at that. Obviously, it's a pleasure to be here. Mal has confidence in me doing the job for Australia, it's always a pleasure to be here."
Holmes admitted the off-field scandal led to a "tough couple of days" for the representative star, who went on to reveal the impact it had on his family and loved ones. "I had some tough talks with the family, my side of the family and my wife's side of the family," he said.
"It was a tough couple of days for a bit there. You've just got to move on, move forward and learn from it. Just be better … You never take anything for granted in life, especially what we do as footy players.
"You don't know when our last game could be or what could happen outside of footy. To be able to wear this training jersey for Australia alongside some of the great players in our game, it's a privilege to even be here."
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