The door remains open for Jamie Dwyer but national men’s hockey coach Graham Reid admits the five-time world player of the year faces a “difficult road”.
Dwyer was not considered for Reid’s 18-strong squad for next month’s Champions Trophy in India due to a foot injury.
Skipper Mark Knowles (foot) will also be sidelined, with Eddie Ockenden or Fergus Kavanagh tipped to take over the captaincy for the December 6-14 tournament in Bhubaneswar.
Dwyer remains stranded on a record-equalling 321 internationals after being overlooked for the recent Commonwealth Games gold medal campaign.
That squad was selected under previous Kookaburras coach Ric Charlesworth, after Dwyer shared in the team’s World Cup triumph in The Netherlands.
His foot ligament injury will keep him off the field until the New Year and it has cast fresh doubts over whether the 35-year-old will don national colours again.
But Reid said Dwyer was still considered part of the Kookaburras program.
“He is still part of our system,” he told AAP.
“We have made it very clear to Jamie the things that he needs to do to remain a part of the Kookaburras and he is working on those and he seems to be very committed to it.
“But it’s always a difficult road – time will tell.”
Reid – who took over from the legendary Charlesworth in September – conceded Dwyer’s experience would be sorely missed when they launched their Champions Trophy title defence.
However, he looked forward to blooding youngsters such as Tom Craig, Matthew Dawson and Flynn Ogilvie in India.
“Jamie’s experience is something you can’t throw away without some repercussions,” he said.
“It’s disappointing he can’t be a part of it but to build depth you need to provide opportunities and that is what we are doing.
“The good part of youth and regenerating is that it does bring that extra competition and enthusiasm to a group, that’s what we are seeing at the moment.”
No.1-ranked Australia appear the team to beat after clinching the World Cup in June and Glasgow Games gold.
They have also won the last five Champions Trophy titles.
But they are in a transitional phase under Reid and face a huge test of depth in India.
Besides Knowles and Dwyer, the experienced Joel Carroll (foot) and Kieran Govers (hip) are also missing.
Australia received a reality check when they lost a four-Test series to No.9 ranked India in Perth earlier this month – the first time the Kookaburras had tasted defeat since January.
“Now we become the hunted,” Reid said.
“But we want to turn that around.
“We actually changed our motto from ‘seeking greatness’ to ‘hunting greatness’.”