St George-Illawarra half-back Benji Marshall has not been included in Stephen Kearney’s preliminary New Zealand squad for the Four Nations, which kicks off next month.
The 29-year-old, who returned to the NRL earlier this year after a short stint in rugby union, has been told the Kiwis are looking ahead to the 2017 World Cup and giving 24-year-olds Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson a chance to flourish.
However, coach Kearney has not closed the door on Marshall, who still has a chance to face England in next year’s hotly-anticipated test series.
“Anything is possible and there’s every opportunity for Benji to wear the black jersey [again],” Kearney told the New Zealand Herald.
“At this particular stage, it won’t be in 2014 but I am not writing anything off. The way he has come back has been a real credit to him and in 12 months time we all might be singing a different song.
“I’m sure he would be disappointed but [Benji] has had a few knock-backs over the last 18 months [and] he will rise above it.”
As expected, Salford Red Devils full-back Kevin Locke has also been omitted having left the NRL.
The New Zealand Four Nations squad*
Gerard Beale (St George Dragons), Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Fa’amanu Brown (Cronulla Sharks), Sosaia Feki (Cronulla Sharks), David Fusitua (Vodafone Warriors), Siliva Havili (Vodafone Warriors), Valentine Holmes (Cronulla Sharks), Konrad Hurrell (Vodafone Warriors), Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors), Ngani Laumape (Vodafone Warriors), Thomas Leuluai (Vodafone Warriors), Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors), Suaia Matagi (Vodafone Warriors), Ben Matulino (Vodafone Warriors), Matt McIlrick (Canberra Raiders), Jason Nightingale (St George Dragons), Sauaso Sue (Wests Tigers), Brad Takairangi (Wests Tigers), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Bodene Thompson (Wests Tigers), Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors)
*Squad only contains players from NRL teams that failed to make the play-offs. At the end of the Finals Series, more players will be added to this roster