Australian coach Mal Meninga says star Canberra Raiders duo Jarrod Croker and Joey Leilua were overlooked because he wanted fit players in his squad for the first day of training.
Croker and Leilua had injuries cruel their Test dreams on Tuesday when they were left out of Meninga's 24-man squad despite being the best centres in the NRL this year.
Leilua was named in the team of the year at the Dally M awards a week ago while Croker beat a hot field of contenders to be picked as the NRL's captain of the year.
But Meninga couldn't find room for them in his Test squad, opting for Josh Dugan and Justin O'Neill as first-choice centres.
Croker (knee) and Leilua (hamstring) suffered injuries in the Raiders' preliminary final loss to the Melbourne Storm two weeks ago.
The Raiders finished second on the ladder but have just two players in the Kangaroos squad, with prop Shannon Boyd on the verge of a Test debut and Josh Papalii picked as well.
"They [Leilua and Croker] were discussed again. I thought that Josh Dugan and Justin O'Neill who had a fantastic Origin series this year and played really well for his club the last two years, deserved their spots," Meninga said.
"I talked to Joey and to Jarrod. They could've possibly been right for the tour but at the end we went for the fit players."
Leilua and Croker were absent from a Raiders training session on Tuesday morning as Papalii, Joe Tapine, Jordan Rapana, Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson resumed fitness work.
Croker had a scan on his injured knee last week and it is believed he damaged the medial ligament.
Leilua injured his hamstring but was hoping to return to training in two weeks. The silver lining for Leilua's non-selection is that he can be with his partner for the birth of their first child.
"If the Dally M awards picked two centres in the team of the year, it would have been [Croker] and BJ [Leilua]," Papalii said.
"Injuries happen and it's hard to take. Maybe I'm biased but I'd have them both in the best team of the year but I'm not a selector.
"It would always be good to see more Raiders boys to playing rep footy, it's great for the club."