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Kidwell wields axe to Warriors NZ hopefuls

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/10/2016 Angelo Risso

Kiwis boss David Kidwell insists the Warriors' disastrous late-season collapse had no bearing on his squad selection for the Four Nations.

The Warriors overcame an insipid start to the 2016 NRL season to sit in seventh place with four matches remaining, before losing all of their remaining games to miss the finals.

The 2016 campaign marked the Warriors' fifth consecutive year without finals football and convinced the club to replace Andrew McFadden with Stephen Kearney as coach for next season.

Eleven Warriors were called into Kidwell's 36-man Kiwi train-on squad in September, as the new coach ran his eye over candidates for the black and white jumper.

However Kidwell named only six of those Warriors in his final 24-man squad to travel to Perth and England, including the Wigan-bound playmaker Thomas Leuluai.

Potential Kiwi debutants David Fusitu'a and Solomone Kata made the cut, as did stalwarts Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke and Simon Mannering.

However veteran winger Manu Vatuvei, who has made 28 appearances for New Zealand, was overlooked after an inconsistent year of NRL football.

Second rower Bodene Thompson, young guns Sam Lisone and Jazz Tevaga and prodigious utility Tuimoala Lolohea also failed to make the final 24.

Experienced prop Ben Matulino and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will also miss the tour with shoulder and knee injuries respectively.

Kidwell denied the Warriors' late-season form had anything to do with his decision-making.

A number of Australian clubs, including Penrith, Brisbane and Melbourne, were bulging with Kiwi talent begging for selection.

"It's all about the amount of depth we have in the NRL," Kidwell told reporters on Tuesday.

"You look at that team and there's a lot of depth and experience, and that's the way we've done it with this selection."

The Kiwis train-on squad were in three separate camps throughout the NRL finals series, with Kidwell overseeing Sydney-based players and veteran prop Adam Blair leading those in Queensland.

Kiwis head trainer Dayne Norton, meanwhile, put the New Zealand-based players through their paces, including star halfback Johnson.

Johnson, who struggled for fitness with a niggling thigh issue throughout 2016, was now raring to go after some much-needed rest.

"I definitely want a really fit team, that's one of the things I'm pretty strong with," Kidwell said.

Kidwell also said that former Kiwis and new Warriors coach Stephen Kearney would not play a role in the side's Test against Australia in Perth next weekend despite offering his assistance.

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