Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga says it was tough having to tell veterans Corey Parker and Paul Gallen that they hadn't been selected in Australia's 24-man squad for the Four Nations, but conceded it was a call that had to be made.
Parker has been a mainstay in the national side since making his debut in 2011, with the retired Broncos lock playing 13 Tests for his country, while Gallen – who was man of the match in this year's trans-Tasman Test – played 32 times for Australia.
With a World Cup campaign to look forward to in 2017, Meninga said the time was right to start blooding Australia's next generation of stars, but admitted that didn't make his phone calls to the veteran locks any easier.
"That's the toughest job you can do in coaching and in life, to tell someone they're not a part of something special. It was a difficult conversation to have," he said.
"They've been great servants to the game, we all know that. They've worn the green and gold jersey in high regard, but we move on.
"We've picked a side who are the best players playing the game at the moment, and with an eye to the future as well.
"It was hard. We sat around the table and discussed loyalty and discussed respect, but at the end of the day, we've got to pick what's best for the team and the Kangaroos going forward as well."
Meninga spoke to both Parker and Gallen to inform them of the decision before Tuesday's squad announcement, and said both men accepted their non-selections with grace and humility.
"He was disappointed, but he understood," Meninga said of his discussion with Parker.
"I was honest in the conversations and I think there are players playing better than he is at the moment and they deserve their chance to get into the footy side. It's that simple, really.
"We've got an eye to the future too, so people like Trent Merrin and Tyson Frizell are terrific players and deserve their spots.
"Gal is a true professional and he took it on the chin as well. He understood the situation, which was great, and both Gal and Corey were part of the conversations we had prior to the Test.
"They believe in the values in the Kangaroos DNA of moving forward and picking our best players. With that in mind, he (Gallen) said 'fair enough'."
One of the players set to fill their void in the middle of the field is hulking front-rower Shannon Boyd. The Canberra Raiders prop was rewarded for a breakout season that saw him help his side get within one win of the grand final.
"He's a big unit, fast, good mobility, can get the team on the front foot," Meninga said.
"He's certainly a player that's in his prime at the moment and will be for many years to come. He's pushed his way into the football side and I think he's a tremendous player."
Another player in line to make his national debut is Sharks premiership hero James Maloney.
"Jimmy has been in the picture for a while I reckon," Meninga said.
"Just his success on the field with the clubs he's been with suggests that he's a player of influence. His Origin series this year was extremely good."
Perhaps the unluckiest player to miss out on selection was James Tedesco, with the Wests Tigers fullback overlooked in favour of Darius Boyd and Matt Moylan.
"When you sit around a table and try to select a team to go overseas, you've got to try to get the mix right, the balance right, positionally you've got to try to get the numbers right, so it's very difficult to pick all those players," Meninga said.
"James was a part of that, but we chose Darius Boyd who is the premier fullback at the moment, and Matt Moylan, so unfortunately he misses out."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM