ENGLAND CAST-OFF Carl Ablett insists he has no hard feelings over coach Steve McNamara’s decision not to select him for the Four Nations.
Ablett was a member of the England elite training squad, featured in this year’s Super League Dream Team and took third place in Leeds Rhinos’ player of the year awards, but was a shock omission from the international tournament which ended last weekend.
Ablett admitted he was “disappointed” to miss out, but said the earlier than expected end to his season could benefit him and Rhinos in the long run.
“Obviously it’s chance to represent your country again and it’s a great experience playing in Australia and New Zealand against some great players,” Ablett conceded.
“It would have been good for my development and experience and it was disappointing not to be picked, but it is a tough position Steve is in.
“He has got to pick the best squad he thinks is available to do the job. He obviously went with different players and he wanted different things in his squad.
“Once you are told, it’s about putting it behind you, trying to get your holiday booked and then getting away and trying to get over the season you’ve just had.
“I have just tried to do that, get away and forget about rugby for a while, then I was back in early and I am looking forward to the rest of pre-season.”
The three Leeds players who were selected for England – Zak Hardaker, Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall – will not begin pre-season training until the new year.
But Ablett, along with many of his team-mates, will have a full three-month build-up to Rhinos’ First Utility Super League opener at Hull KR on Sunday, February 8 – and he reckons that is one positive to come out of his international exile.
“It’s ideal,” he said of having a full pre-season for the first time since his England debut in 2012.
“I would definitely rather have gone over there and tried to be part of the team and experienced the Four Nations again, but you have got to look at the positives and what you can gain from it (not being selected).
“I am in nice and early and I’ll get plenty of work done now. Most of the squad is back early, there’s only the three England boys who aren’t back until January, so that is quite refreshing.
“It will be nice to get almost everyone back in and have a good three-month pre-season.”
England’s next scheduled action is a three-Test series against a touring New Zealand side next autumn. McNamara will again be in charge, but Ablett insisted showing the England coach what he missed this year is not among his list of motivations.
“I will just try to focus on what I’m doing and my form,” he said.
“Looking back at last season I was pretty happy with how I went. Each year I am just striving to get better and use the experiences I’ve had throughout the years.
“I think I’ve done that. When I’ve looked back across the 10 years I feel like I have progressed each year and that’s what drives me – self-improvement and trying to contribute more to the team.
“As my experience has grown I have evolved a bit more into this team. Next year I will be trying to improve and work on a few areas I wasn’t so good at last season.
“I’ll be trying to be as consistent as I can. What I try to pride my game on is being good week-in and week-out. I try not to let my performances drop too low and as long as I can get a decent consistency, I will be happy.”