Seventeen players have today been named in the first Kiwis train-on squad to prepare for the Rugby League World Cup. Five clubs are represented, with eight players coming from the Vodafone Warriors - including the Kiwis captain Simon Mannering - and three from the Penrith Panthers.
The squad was chosen from the eight clubs that won't feature in the NRL play-offs this year, being the Gold Coast Titans, Penrith Panthers, Vodafone Warriors, Brisbane Broncos, Canberra Raiders, St George Illawarra Dragons, Wests Tigers and the Parramatta Eels.
The national selectors - Richie Barnett, Ivan Cleary, Stephen Kearney and Tawera Nikau - along with the convenor of selectors Tony Iro, will add to the squad in the coming weeks as teams are eliminated from the NRL finals.
The former Kiwis captain Benji Marshall was not considered for selection, with Iro confirming that Marshall informed the selectors that his impending move to rugby union would rule him out of the tournament.
"We're naturally disappointed to not have Benji available for World Cup selection," said Iro, "but we understand the circumstances and wish him well. He'll always be a Kiwi brother and he has done wonders not only for rugby league in New Zealand, but the game in general.
"Benji stood proud as a New Zealander at a time when there was plenty of interest in convincing him to commit elsewhere. His dedication to his country set an example to those coming through. He was a key part of the Kiwis team that won New Zealand's first ever Rugby League World Cup in 2008 and he followed that up with a starring role, as captain, in our 2010 Four Nations win. He'll be missed, but we believe we have players in the halves that are ready to deliver in this World Cup tournament."
Benji Marshall (Kiwi #717) debuted for the Kiwis in the 2005 ANZAC Test and has played 27 Tests, including 19 as captain.
2013 KIWIS TRAIN-ON SQUAD (at September 11):
Brisbane Broncos: Alex Glenn, Josh Hoffman
St George Illawarra Dragons: Bronson Harrison, Jason Nightingale
Penrith Panthers: Lewis Brown, Sam McKendry, Dean Whare
Vodafone Warriors: Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Kevin Locke, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Manu Vatuvei
Wests Tigers: Adam Blair, Tim Simona Like