Florham Park, Aug 7 (AP/UNB) — Valentine Holmes was as massive a star in Australia as he could have ever imagined.
The standout winger and fullback for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks of the National Rugby League was recognized wherever he went, with die-hard fans donning his team's jersey and wide-eyed youngsters wanting to play just like him.
And then, Holmes stunningly left it all behind.
He headed to the United States for a chance to play American football in the NFL, a decision that angered some of those same fans who once cheered him. But Holmes needed to tackle his dream — no matter what everyone else thought.
"I just felt like I wanted to test myself as a person and an athlete," the 24-year-old Holmes told The Associated Press. "I wasn't really thinking about what I was giving up, I guess. It was just that I wanted to chase more."
Holmes is in training camp with the New York Jets competing for a roster spot as a running back, wide receiver and return specialist.
He's here — 10,000 miles from home — as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway program. This summer, all four AFC East teams — the Jets, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots — can carry an international player in camp. It's a long shot, but players can earn a place on the 53-man active roster. If they don't, they are eligible for a practice squad exemption, meaning they wouldn't count against the team's allotment of 10 non-active roster players during the regular season.
Holmes first worked out for NFL scouts in Los Angeles in 2016, and spent three months early this year learning the game at IMG Academy in Florida before joining the Jets in the spring.
"I'd say it's been kind of like a roller-coaster," Holmes said. "Obviously, I've had some ups and downs. Learning the playbook and getting stuff wrong is not always good, just making mistakes on the field or even in the classroom. And then, also making good plays and making good stops is also a good thing, as well.
"So, yeah, I'm just excited to be here."
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Holmes has been working in the backfield with the likes of Le'Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell, catching passes and also returning punts — doing whatever he can to stand out.
Holmes has shown flashes in recent days after a back ailment limited him early in camp. He had a 50-yard touchdown catch in a drill Monday that had his teammates fired up.
"He's picking up the offense," Jets coach Adam Gase said. "That hasn't really been his issue. It's just when everything starts moving super-fast, he's trying to get used to that and I think it's starting to work for him. It's slowing down for him and I think it just keeps slowing down.
"I'm excited to see him get to play in some games and just kind of see how he reacts to all that."
Holmes might get that chance Thursday night in the Jets' preseason opener against the Giants.
"It'll be cool just to be on the sideline and interact with the guys," he said, "and watch with them rather than just watch on the TV, you know?"
Holmes was fascinated by the NFL as a kid, checking out highlights of games and reading about the league's biggest stars.
That stuck with him, even when he was 17 and moved out of his family's home in Townsville on the northeastern coast of Queensland to Sydney to begin a career in rugby league. Holmes quickly discovered he was good — really good — and racked up 369 points in five seasons with the Sharks. He represented Australia in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, where he set a record with 12 tries — the equivalent of touchdowns — in the tournament.
"I was a big fish in Townsville, but then when I went over to Sydney, it was 10 times bigger and a lot more competitive because they had a lot more people," he said. "I worked my way up there."
Holmes had one year left on his contract with the Sharks, but instead had the team release him, passing up about $720,000, to pursue the NFL.
Some speculated Holmes is merely passing time in the U.S. until next year when he could potentially make big-time bucks as a highly coveted free agent in rugby league.
"It wasn't really about my situation financially or anything," said Holmes, who would earn $129,000 on the Jets' practice squad. "The opportunity came up and I'm sure a lot of people would take it if they wanted to and if they could. It's also kind of creating a pathway for other guys who'd like to do that in the future."
What Holmes is attempting is not unprecedented, but is uncommon.
Jarryd Hayne was the first rugby league player who never previously played American football to make it onto an active NFL roster when he spent the 2015 season with San Francisco as a running back and return specialist.
Offensive lineman Jordan Mailata became the second after being drafted by Philadelphia last year in the seventh round, although he didn't play in any games as a rookie.
Holmes is on his way to forging his own legacy, but he refuses to look too far ahead. There's no time for that. He's living his dream right now.
"I'm just trying to focus on being healthy and staying fit, and the longer I do that, maybe the more time I get on the field and maybe that helps my chances," Holmes said. "I'm not really worried about the future of myself at the moment. I'm just kind of worried about what I'm doing now and needing to get better at learning the playbook and needing to get better on the field."
Sao Paulo, Aug 7 (AP/UNB) — Several young Brazilian players are in the middle of their seasons and could be bargains for European clubs needing last-minute deals.
And some of them are already on the radar of Brazil coach Tite for the next World Cup qualifiers, which begin in March.
Here are a few names to keep an eye on:
The 21-year-old started as a winger at Corinthians, but has recently become a team leader as a midfielder. Pedrinho netted five goals for his club this year, which is already more than in the two previous seasons. He remains a talented dribbler who entertains fans, but is now stronger and can deliver good 90-minute performances. Pedrinho has been linked to Ajax, Monaco and Borussia Dortmund. Corinthians executives expect he will move soon and hope for the transfer value the club has set at 50 million euros ($56 million). Transfermarkt, a website that tracks player values, says Pedrinho is worth 15 million euros ($17 million).
The 19-year-old Sao Paulo right-winger scored only once for his club this year, but has impressed fans with sharp dribbles, speed and accurate passes. Some observers compare him with Ajax's David Neres, who started at the same club. Antony was one of Brazil's best players in the winning campaign at this year's Toulon Tournament in France. Manchester City reportedly tried to sign him for 20 million euros ($22 million) and then put him at Sporting Lisbon for some experience, but the deal did not come through.
The 21-year-old Grêmio midfielder is becoming the most important player on the southern Brazil team because of his pace and calming presence. Pyerre has scored four goals in the year. Grêmio fans believe his style is similar Barcelona's Arthur, who also played for the club. Pyerre can shoot from long range and score from free kicks. He recently said he needs to improve his attacking skills to become a proper box-to-box player.
The 22-year-old Fluminense striker has recovered from a serious knee injury that stopped him from playing for Brazil for the first time last year and is back on top form. Pedro is one of the top goal scorers in the Brazilian championship with five goals after 13 matches. The Brazilian is now trying to be more than a target man, adding Socrates-style back-heel passes to his repertoire. Brazil's Flamengo, Italy's Fiorentina and Russia's CSKA have been linked to the player. His cost is estimated at almost 10 million euros ($11 million).
The 21-year-old midfielder has become the main foundation of Athletico Paranaense's defense in the club's best season in more than a decade. Fans compare him to Real Madrid's Casemiro for his effective marking and good passing. Chelsea has sent scouts to watch him and Shakhtar Donetsk is reportedly keen to sign him soon. Guimarães has a Spanish passport, which makes him an easier fit for European clubs. Transfermarkt reports he is worth 5 million euros ($6 million), but China's Shanghai Shenhua has already offered 40 million euros ($45 million) for him.
Orlando, Aug 7 (AP/UNB) — The Pro Bowl will return to Orlando for the fourth straight year and be held one week before the Super Bowl.
The NFL's all-star game will be an afternoon match at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26. A week later, the league's championship game will be played a few hours south in the Miami area.
Fans, players and coaches will vote for the 88 Pro Bowlers, and the game will match the AFC against the NFC.
A weeklong celebration in conjunction with the NFL's 100th season initiatives also will take place across the Orlando area. Those will include a skills showdown and the league's flag football championships.
St. Joseph, Aug 7 (AP/UNB) — The day that Patrick Mahomes checked into Scanlon Hall on the campus of Missouri Western for the start of training camp, he was greeted by Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka — the same trio that guided the young quarterback to a record-setting debut season as the starter.
It was a welcoming, comforting reunion.
The Chiefs went through a wholesale overhaul of their porous defense over the offseason, hiring a new coordinator, new assistants and bringing in eight new starters — give or take. But continuity is what defines the other side of the ball, and that could help Mahomes match or even surpass the 5,000-plus yards passing and 50 touchdown tosses he had while leading the Chiefs to the brink of a Super Bowl.
"Obviously I feel different having a season under my belt where I got to play all 16 games in the season and then playoff games," he said. "Just knowing what to do, another year under my belt and knowing what I need to do each and every day in order to have success on the field."
One of the biggest downfalls to success is change. Teams that win games, advance in the playoffs and win championships tend to lose their best coaches to better jobs at rival organizations.
That was the case when then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson was plucked by Philadelphia, then guided the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. And it was the case a couple of years later, when Chicago took his replacement, Matt Nagy, and the Bears proceeded to march into the playoffs last season.
Bieniemy got some looks for head coaching jobs after last season, too, but ultimately returned to the Chiefs as their offensive coordinator. And with Kafka back to tutor Mahomes, the brain trust that guided the Chiefs to a third consecutive AFC West title is back intact.
That has allowed the Chiefs to build on last season, rather than spending time getting up to speed, and that means plugging even more information into their league MVP's head.
"He's been challenged with the different plays that have been added," Reid said, "and then some of the fundamental things that he's working on. When I tell you he loves that stuff, he loves being coached. He wants to be coached hard. E.B. does a great job with him, Mike does a great job with him, of really challenging him. He thrives on that kind of stuff."
It isn't just the coaching staff that returns together, either.
Mahomes is still handing off to Damien Williams, who filled in admirably after the midseason loss of Kareem Hunt last season. He is still tossing passes to Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson, enjoying a big-play safety valve in Travis Kelce and the protection of fullback Anthony Sherman.
Up front, four of the Chiefs' five starting offensive linemen return, as do a pair of backups in Cameron Erving — who has plenty of starting experience — and Kahlil McKenzie.
The Chiefs could have eight new starters on defense. They have eight returning on offense.
"When I got here it was such a young line," left tackle Eric Fisher said, "but now we have a whole bunch of veteran dudes, and we had some injuries last year and guys stepped in. There's no drop."
The newcomers to the offense figure to make it even better, too.
Austin Reiter is stepping in for oft-injured center Mitch Morse, who departed in free agency. The Chiefs used their initial draft pick on wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who replaced underwhelming Chris Conley. And backup tight end Deon Yelder replaced drop-prone Demetrius Harris.
In other words, there are plenty of reasons to expect the Chiefs' offense to be just as dynamic as it was last season. Maybe even more.
NOTES: DEs Frank Clark (wrist) and Alex Okafor (hip), DL Emmanuel Ogbah and WR Gehrig Dieter (back) did not practice Wednesday. ... RB Damien Williams (hamstring) returned to the field for the first time since the first day of practice. He ran with the starters the second half of practice. ... DEs Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon got time with the starters due to injuries at their position.
Dhaka, Aug 7 (UNB) - After waiting for weeks, Zimbabwe cricket team have finally confirmed their tour to Bangladesh to take part in a T20 tri-series, also involving Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe team will arrive in the capital on September 8 to play their first international event after being suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) recently.
But, Afghanistan will be first team to arrive here on August 30 to play one-off Test match against Bangladesh on September 5-9 at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram before participating in the tri-nation T20 series.
Afghanistan will also play a two-day practice game at MA Aziz Stadium in Chattogram against BCB XI from September 1 to 2.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) on Wednesday announced the itinerary of the tri-series and one-off Test series between hosts Bangladesh and Afghanistan scheduled for September 5-9 at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chattogram.
The tri-series will be kick off on September 13 through the opening game between hosts Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur and end with the final match on September 24 at the same venue.
Despite the suspension from ICC, all the matches that Zimbabwe will play bilaterally will get the international status, Nizam Uddin Chowdhury, the chief executive officer (CEO) of BCB, confirmed on August 6.
The first three matches of the seven-match tri-series will be held at Sher-e-Bangla while the next three matches at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. After that, the top two teams will lock horns in the final at Sher-e-Bangla national cricket stadium again.
Before the main series, Zimbabwe will play a T20 practice game against BCB XI at Khan Saheb Osman Ali Stadium, Fatullah, on September 11.
September 13,: Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe, September 14: Afghanistan vs Zimbabwe, September 15: Bangladesh vs Afghanistan, September 18: Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe, September 20: Afghanistan vs Zimbabwe, September 21: Bangladesh vs Afghanistan and September 24: Final.