Poor form has led to Rhys Williams' absence in Holger Osieck's Socceroos squad, while Shane Lowry, Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton were among the others to miss out
|By BREN O'BRIEN
Rhys Williams has paid the price for his poor season for Middlesbrough, with national coach Holger Osieck overlooking the versatile defender for Australia's crucial three World cup qualifiers in June.
The inclusion of veteran central defender Sasa Ognenovski as well as Brisbane right-back Ivan Franjic has seen Williams slip out of contention in major blow for the 24-year-old, who has played 11 games for the national side.
A horror season for Middlesbrough, which included a serious ankle injury which kept him out for four months, saw his form and confidence slump.
Despite being captain, he was dropped by manager Tony Mowbray soon after his return and told local newspaper Gazette Live last week that he struggled to rediscover his form from that point.
"As captain it hits you a little bit harder when the team is struggling because you want to show the lads you are up for the fight and when things aren’t going your way it’s difficult to get back to where you were," he said.
"I always try to give 200 percent no matter what but sometimes I think too much about the team rather than myself and my own game.
"I pick faults in my game and try to make sure they never happen again.
"It was quite a shock to myself that times had changed and I had to show it on the pitch to be able to keep my place."
Left-back Shane Lowry, who has been a mainstay at championship club Milwall this year, is also unlucky to miss out, while Central Coast centre back Trent Sainsbury has been overlooked despite his strong form for the Mariners.
Lowry made 39 appearances mainly as a left-back for the Lions - a position where Australia have had considerable trouble in recent years.
"Left-back has been our Achilles heel in recent games. I have to admit it. I always try to find a solution, but unfortunately there's nobody who has come from the sky. I hope I will get the right person to do the job in Japan," Osieck told Football Australia's website.
The two most experienced players overlooked were Brett Emerton, who appears to have fallen off the radar completely, and Harry Kewell, who has played just three games of football in over 12 months having been recently released by his Qatari club Al Gharafa.
The door remains open for former Leeds and Liverpool forward Kewell, however: "I assured Harry when he's back to his top level he's always a very important player for the group," Osieck said.
German-based attacking pair Matthew Leckie and Nikita Rukavytsya were also overlooked, while defensive midfielder Chris Herd, who has not played for Aston Villa since January because of injury, was not considered despite being fit enough to be named among the substitutes for his club's final game of the season on Sunday.