Kangaroos injury crisis worsens
The Kangaroos will be hard pressed finding 17 blokes to fill the green and gold jumpers at this rate, with a staggering 12 players ruled out of the Four Nations train-on squad on Monday.
Coach Tim Sheens will be forced to field a completely different back three to the one which won the World Cup in November last year, with Billy Slater, Brett Morris (both undergoing shoulder surgery) and Darius Boyd (personal issues) all unavailable.
Slater's absence opens the door for either Greg Inglis or Jarryd Hayne to play in their preferred position at fullback, but the options to replace one of the pair in the three-quarter line are also dwindling, as both Justin Hodges (knee surgery) and Josh Dugan (broken thumb) are also out.
Australia's pack has also been dealt a couple of significant blows, with Brisbane's Matt Gillett and St. George Illawarra's Trent Merrin both set to go under the knife for shoulder surgery later in the week. Joining them on the sidelines are Sharks prop Andrew Fifita (fractured forearm and thumb) and Titans big man Dave Taylor (neck).
NSW skipper Paul Gallen is already a notable absentee due to his ASADA-ban, while Queensland mainstay Nate Myles was also ruled out last month due to surgery on a ruptured bicep.
Will Hopoate, Michael Gordon, Dale Copley and Aidan Sezer have also been forced to withdraw from Sheens' train-on squad for the Four Nations and Prime Minister's XIII match against Papua New Guinea in mid-October.
With the Kangaroos World Cup winning outfit the oldest in rugby league history, the massive casualty ward does have an upside. It offers Sheens the chance to blood a number of in-form youngsters, particularly amongst the backs, as the side undergoes an inevitable regeneration process over the next few years.
Dylan Walker, Alex Johnston, Daniel Tupou, Aidan Guerra, Josh Mansour, Will Chambers, Josh Jackson, Anthony Milford and Josh McGuire are all expected to push for selection.
As the Cowboys and Sea Eagles both bowed out of the finals race at the weekend, nine players have been added to the squad. The Manly quartet of Anthony Watmough, Brenton Lawrence, Brett Stewart and Daly Cherry-Evans will be joined by North Queensland's Gavin Cooper, James Tamou, Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Michael Morgan, with further players to be named as two more sides are eliminated from the grand final qualifiers.
Updated PM XIII/Kangaroos Four Nations Train-On Squad:
Ben Hunt, Corey Parker, Josh McGuire, Sam Thiaday (Broncos); Gavin Cooper, James Tamou, Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Michael Morgan (Cowboys); Jarryd Hayne (Eels); Beau Scott, Kurt Gidley, Willie Mason (Knights); Anthony Milford, Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker, Josh Papalii (Raiders); Anthony Watmough, Brenton Lawrence, Brett Stewart, Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles); Luke Lewis (Sharks); Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman, Will Chambers (Storm); Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (Tigers); Greg Bird (Titans); Jacob Lillyman (Warriors)