Kangaroo depth no concern: Geyer
Former Kangaroos hardman Mark Geyer isn't at all concerned about Australia's chances at this year's Four Nations despite an unprecedented six front-rowers unavailable for the tournament.
Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods is expected to be one of up to seven uncapped NRL players when Australian coach Tim Sheens announces a 24-man squad at Rugby League Central on Tuesday.
Geyer, who played three Tests for the Kangaroos between 1989 and 1991, said Woods was certainly capable of leading Australia's forward pack after a stellar Origin series for NSW this year.
"He's definitely ready. He's been coming along beautifully the last couple of years at both club and Origin level. This year he really stood up at Origin level," Geyer told NRL.com.
"I'd also love to see [Josh] Papalii in the front row. I think that's his spot. He gets a bit lost out wide, in that roaming backrower's role. A move up front, ala Paul Gallen, is exactly what he needs to re-invigorate his game.
"Then you throw in a big bopper like Dylan Napa, whose going to be a good'un as well, then you've got three blokes there who can cover a few holes."
Eight of the 17 players that defeated the Kiwis in last year's World Cup final have either undergone post-season surgery, cited physical fatigue or – in Paul Gallen's case – accepted a backdated 12-month doping ban, meaning Sheens will have to call on plenty of new faces for the first Test against New Zealand on October 25.
Wingers Will Chambers, Josh Mansour, Daniel Tupou and Alex Johnston are all in contention to fill two spots on the flanks vacated by incumbents Darius Boyd and Brett Morris.
Woods, together with Queensland trio Brenton Lawrence, Josh McGuire and Dylan Napa, are all being considered to fill what will be an extremely raw engine room.
Even breakthrough talents Matt Moylan and Ben Hunt could be rewarded for stellar seasons with a spot in the squad after the late withdrawal of regular playmaker Johnathan Thurston.
But Geyer insisted Australia's next generation of stars were more prepared than ever before to continue the country's dominance on the world stage.
"Because of the progression now where rugby league players aren't allowed to play first grade until they're 18, then we've got the NSW Cup where guys like Matty Moylan was the last two years before he went into first grade, it enables players to make the leap quicker than what you would've 10 or 20 years ago," he said.
"I really think that these kids these days are so confident in their own ability and by the players around them that they don't feel threatened when they take on the big boys.
"I'd love to see Hunt, Moylan, Mansour, and even [Sione] Mata'utia get a run. These young blokes, if you give them a taste of what it's like to wear the coat of arms over your heart, you can almost see how proud they'll be to wear the jersey."
Geyer also hit back at suggestions NRL players were disrespecting the Kangaroos jersey by making themselves unavailable for the tournament, but said the brutality of the modern game was a major concern for the international arena.
Almost 20 players were crossed from Sheen's list before Tuesday's announcement.
"The season we had was the closest we ever had on record. It was the most brutal, it was the most dramatic, and it's taken blokes a lot longer to recover from injuries because of the size of the footballer. We're going to see a lot more blokes pull out every year," he said.
"I've never seen so many of them before pulling out of tournaments because of fatigue. It's one of them things you'd never own up to, but they've got to be patted on the back for saying it: 'I can't go much further. You're pushing me and pushing me, but I can't give anymore.'
"That's what these players at the moment, who are pulling out of the Four Nations, are basically saying. 'I don't know whether I can give you 100 per cent.'"