Valentine Holmes of the Sharks during the First Semi Final between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Penrith Panthers in Week 2 of the NRL Finals Series at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Friday, September 14, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Valentine Holmes of the Sharks during the First Semi Final between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Penrith Panthers in Week 2 of the NRL Finals Series at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Friday, September 14, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Barba’s exit could bring Valentine home

Ben Barba's Cowboys sacking has opened the door for NFL flirter Valentine Holmes to make a shock return to North Queensland this year.

The Sunday Mail can reveal the Cowboys are weighing up whether to hold off on signing a replacement for Barba in case Holmes quits his NFL dalliance.

Barba was axed by the Cowboys on Friday night following allegations of a domestic violence incident involving his partner and mother of their four daughters, Ainslie Currie.

The Cowboys did not hesitate in sacking Barba immediately after viewing CCTV footage of the alleged incident which occured at a Townsville casino over the Australia Day weekend.

Barba's sacking, which came before he played a game for the Cowboys, has left coach Paul Green short of fullback options six weeks out from the start of the NRL season.

Barba, the 2012 Dally M Medal champion, was to start at No. 1 for the Cowboys, with Green believing he was capable of rediscovering his best form at North Queensland.

The Cowboys did not re-sign 2015 premiership-winning fullback Lachlan Coote at the end of last season, instead opting to invest in bringing Barba back to the NRL after he was sacked by the Sharks in 2016 for testing positive to cocaine.

Barba was sacked before playing a game for North Queensland. Picture by Alix Sweeney.
Barba was sacked before playing a game for North Queensland. Picture by Alix Sweeney.

Barba, 29, was expected to fill the Cowboys' fullback void this year before the arrival of Holmes from the Sharks.

Holmes was widely tipped to leave Cronulla and return to Townsville with the Cowboys in 2020 before shocking the NRL by quitting the game to pursue a career in American football.

The Maroons and Kangaroos star is currently in the US attending an NFL rookies camp in the hope of impressing scouts.

If Holmes fails to secure an NFL deal in the coming months, he is likely to return to the NRL.

As part of his release from Cronulla with a year to run on his contract, Holmes agreed to return to the Sharks for the remainder of the 2019 NRL season if he is unsuccessful in the NFL.

However, Cronulla is understood to be suffering from salary cap pressure and may not have the space to accommodate Holmes in their star-studded roster.

Holmes is currently in America trying to make the NFL. Picture by Brett Costello.
Holmes is currently in America trying to make the NFL. Picture by Brett Costello.

A fortnight after Holmes quit the Sharks, Cronulla signed New Zealand Test halfback Shaun Johnson on a three-year deal from the Warriors.

If Holmes gives up on his NFL dream and Cronulla cannot accommodate his return, the Cowboys will be ready to pounce on the 23-year-old sensation.

Holmes' NFL journey could be over by May if he is unsuccessful in securing a contract.

That means the Cowboys would only have to navigate through the opening two months of the NRL season before potentially securing one of the game's hottest talents.

Utility Ben Hampton shapes as Barba's replacement at No. 1 after impressing in stints at fullback throughout last season.

Green also has the option to shift halves Michael Morgan and Te Maire Martin to the back, however Morgan is Johnathan Thurston's long-term successor at halfback.

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