Coach Tim Sheens isn’t ready quite yet to usher in a new guard in his Kangaroos ranks despite the selection of 10 rookies in his Four Nations squad.
Despite the unprecedented influx of rookies into the Australian squad for the Four Nations tournament, Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens isn’t quite ready to usher in generation next.
But the veteran mentor knows it is coming.
At the announcement of the 24-man squad for the four-week tournament, NRL Commission chairman John Grant said it couldn’t be confirmed, but it was unlikely 10 Test rookies had been part of a Kangaroos squad before.
Nine Kangaroo incumbents were unavailable for the Four Nations including Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Billy Slater and Paul Gallen, leaving Sheens to admit the rookies, led by seven-game Newcastle utility Sione Mata’utia and first NRL season South Sydney winger Alex Johnston, were blooded earlier than might have otherwise been the case.
But far from being troubled by the loss of such experience, Sheens said he was excited about what the rookies would bring.
“It is amazing what young fresh blood can do to a squad,” Sheens said.
“I see that invigorating the squad.
“It is an opportunity for them to show what they can do over this tournament, as there will probably be some senior guys who will come back into the squad next year.
“But it is an opportunity for these guys to shine and show the selectors and myself what they can do.
“That is going to strengthen the broader base of the Australian side over the next few years as we go into the Four Nations in ’16 in England and the World Cup here in ’17.
“Some of these guys have to be given an opportunity.”
Sheens acknowledged some of the careers of some of the greatest Kangaroos of all time were coming to an end.
But he wasn’t ready to call time on them yet.
“We have been put in that position at the moment. I am not saying they are all dead and gone just yet either. I don’t think Johnathan would be happy to hear he is out of the picture,” Sheens said.
“But it is coming – there is no doubt about that. We talked about him 18 months ago.
“For various reasons, it has happened at the moment and there is an opportunity for a few guys, perhaps a few more than we thought.
“We were always thinking of some younger guys this year anyway.”
Alongside Mata’utia and Johnston, the other rookies named in Sheens’ squad are Aidan Guerra, Ben Hunt, Josh Jackson, David Klemmer, Josh Mansour, Daniel Tupou, Dylan Walker and Aaron Woods.
A number of those players boasted State of Origin and NRL finals experience and Sheens said that would stand them in good stead.
Walker said he was still coming to terms with his call-up, on the back of South Sydney’s premiership win.
“It’s so surreal, and it’s all happened so quick,” he said.
“I was speaking to a lot of older players in our (Souths) team, and they just said, take it all in and ride the ride.
“But individual rewards like this have come from a team effort.
“I can’t put into words to describe how much my teammates and coaching staff have helped me.”