Australia’s World Cup fullback Billy Slater is the latest star to drop out of the upcoming Four Nations Tournament in Australasia.
He was scheduled to undergo major shoulder surgery in Melbourne on Monday.
Slater is the latest in a growing list of withdrawals from the squad that beat New Zealand 30-18 in the Anzac Test in May. Darius Boyd, Paul Gallen and Nate Myles had already been ruled out.
The planned surgery only came to light when Slater knocked back an invitation to attend next week’s gala Dally M awards function in Sydney.
He had suffered the painful injury during the State of Origin series but kept it secret – even when the media criticised some of his subsequent performances.
Slater had soldiered on with pain-killing injections in a vain attempt to help the Melbourne Storm through to a Grand Final appearance.
But once they were beaten by the Bulldogs in the opening round of the play-offs he quickly decided to immediately go under the surgeon’s scalpel.
The Kiwis have also lost another of their stars – Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell.
He had been included in the train-on squad for New Zealand, despite turning out for Tonga in last year’s World Cup.
But he needs surgery on a fractured right wrist.
Two Kiwis who played in the Anzac Test have also withdrawn.
Warriors utility Ben Henry is out because of knee surgery, while Penrith stand-off Isaac John was sidelined after tearing an Achilles tendon.