Nathan Fien retires as Kiwis squad named
The international career of a controversial Kiwi ended without fanfare today when the New Zealand Rugby League incorporated Australian-born utility Nathan Fien's retirement into the announcement of the train-on squad for next month's trans-Tasman test.
Fien, a member of the Kiwis World Cup and Four Nations triumphs, in 2008 and 2010 respectively, will not add to his 22 caps in Townsville on October 13 as he opts to focus on his NRL commitments with St George Illawarra.
The 33-year-old missed the end of the Dragons' regular season due to injury, so would not have been included in the 12-member preliminary group, but the NZRL took the opportunity to confirm Fien was no longer available for representative selection.
Originally from North Queensland, Fien's Kiwis debut in 2006 - while he was playing for the NZ Warriors - sparked the "Grannygate" controversy after it emerged he was ineligible to represent New Zealand through his family background and had to wait until he fulfilled residency requirements.
Fien duly completed the stand-down period and was used primarily as a hooker via the interchange bench, or in the halves.
He scored the match-winning try in the Four Nations final in Brisbane against the Kangaroos and made his last appearance, also against Australia, in April's Anzac Test in Auckland.
Fien's unavailability, combined with Lance Hohaia and Aaron Heremaia's departure for the Super League at the end of last season, means uncapped Warriors hooker Alehana Mara - a back-up to Nathan Friend - is in contention for his test debut.
Providing he emerges unscathed from South Sydney's premiership bid, Issac Luke will be the starting dummy half.
Warriors centre/second rower Ben Henry is the other debutant-in-waiting named by the selection panel of Richie Barnett, Tony Iro, Tawera Nikau and coach Stephen Kearney.
A wing berth will be up for grabs after it was revealed Fien's clubmate Jason Nightingale required post-season knee surgery.
Sydney-born Nightingale had been an automatic selection in the Kiwis, opening up competition to occupy a flank for the one-off international.
One-test Kiwi wing Matt Duffie (Melbourne Storm) is already out of contention with a season-ending shoulder injury, which also required an operation.
Sydney Rooster-turned-Canterbury Bulldog Sam Perrett shapes as a potential candidate to fill the vacancy and resume his international career.
Warriors fullback Kevin Locke, who missed April's defeat at Eden Park due to injury, is again unavailable for selection as he recuperates from a high ankle sprain.
Despite their dismal season, the Warriors supply seven players including out of form halfback Shaun Johnson, who made an impressive test debut against the Kangaroos in April.
The current group features players from the eight clubs no longer involved in the title race; more will be added once teams drop out of the finals series this weekend.
Kiwis train-on squad: Sam McKendry (Penrith Panthers), Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Ben Henry, Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering, Alehana Mara, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Manu Vatuvei (New Zealand Warriors), Adam Blair, Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers).