CASTLEFORD Tigers’ Oli Holmes is not daunted in the slightest by facing Sonny Bill Williams – he is more concerned about the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
The England second-row could directly line up against the New Zealand superstar who is set to make his Toronto Wolfpack debut in the Super League opener against Tigers at Emerald Headingley on February 2.
Before that, and as part of their pre-season plans, Castleford are embarking on the Three Peaks challenge in a bid to raise £10,000 for the Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract.
Starting and ending in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, players and staff will head off on the 25-mile route to tackle the county’s three highest peaks – Pen-y-ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (723m) – within 12 hours on November 30.
As they prepare for that, Holmes conceded he is looking forward to the challenge of facing dual-code star Williams whose £5.3m two-year deal makes him the highest paid player in the history of either code.
“I think it’s massive for the sport and especially in England that Toronto managed to sign him up and bring him to Super League,” said the 27 year-old.
“Their first game is against us and it’s their first game in Super League in a double-header at Headingley, too, so fair play to the organisers for getting that set up .
“Hopefully he’s in that game and we can test ourselves but he’ll already know how tough it is.”
However, asked if 34-year-old former All Blacks centre Williams – who generally plays second-row in league – is someone he has looked up to, Holmes responded: “Not particularly.
“He’s been a great player over the years and he’s been there and done it all, winning a couple of NRL titles and couple of World Cups in union.
“But he’s a Kiwi for starters – and I don’t look up to any of them! I don’t think he’s head and shoulders above the rest. He is high profile and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes.”
Williams is known for his ability to off-load out of the tackle and produce a big hit but Holmes is renowned for being one of Super League’s best tacklers so it should be a fascinating tussle. On the Three Peaks, he added: “The coaching staff looked at something to do with us in pre-season.
“Last year we went up to Cumbria for two days to work on (former Harlequins RL captain) Rob Purdham’s farm.
“But this has a bit more meaning as it will allow us to raise money for a great cause, too.
“It’ll be a good, tough challenge and something I’ve never done before.
“I did Pen-y-ghent in 2014 and can remember that being quite difficult at that time of year and we’re adding the other two peaks now.
“Dan Smith’s done it and Jordan Rankin did it with Huddersfield Giants so they’ve let us know how hard it’s going to be.”
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the hospice offers care for patients in the local area with life-limiting illnesses and relies on raising over £5,000 each day to continue operating.
All care is provided free of charge and is based entirely on need, although only around 25 per cent of the cost is covered by the NHS.
This leaves The Prince of Wales Hospice needing to raise around £3m per year through its shops, fundraising events, donations and community initiatives to continue operating.
Donations can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/castigers