The 37-year-old has spent the past four years in England playing for the Exeter Chiefs, but thought his professional career was over when he failed to get a visa renewal just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Thoughts of retirement loomed before a call from Western Force coach Tim Sampson quickly changed Holmes’ outlook.
“A few months back I had every intention of re-signing at the Chiefs and doing another season there,” he said.
“And then it came around that I hadn’t played 75 per cent of the games in the last 24 months. I had the Achilles injury and I hardly played at all, especially these last 12 months, so I wasn’t eligible to re-sign with my visa. So that put a halt to it.
“And that’s when I started thinking, ‘This could be the end of it’. It was something I was mentally prepared for.
“But then you get a call from Tim asking me to help out in this comp, and it was huge.
“It just got the excitement levels up again. To be able to come back and play in Australia and finish up over here – that’s everything I’ve ever asked for.”
Holmes knows the Force coaching staff well, having played with Sampson at Sunnybank and turned out alongside forwards coach Van Humphries at the Reds.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 24, 2020
His arrival adds vital experience to a youthful Force set-up, and he is keen to pass on his knowledge to the team’s youngsters.
“Even at the Chiefs at Exeter, it’s funny having kids coming out of school – it was crazy to see how young some of them are,” Holmes said.
“I could literally be the dad to some of the kids there.
“It’s all part and parcel, and I enjoy spending time with those young kids and helping them.
“Not every lesson in life has to be a hard one, so if I can help any of those young kids, then I will.”
Jono Lance and Kyle Godwin are other high-profile recruits that have been lured to the Force in preparation for Australia’s new domestic rugby competition, which kicks-off on July 3.
– Justin Chadwick
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