There was an extra spring in the step of a number of Wellington Phoenix players today as they completed their final training run of the week before Sunday's A-League clash away at Adelaide United.
New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson was an interested spectator for the entire session at the club's new training base in Berhampore, and spent time deep in conversation with several players afterwards.
Hudson was accompanied by his goalkeeping coach Paul Gothard, while under-17 co-coach Chris Zoricich was also in attendance.
All Whites attacker Kosta Barbarouses said Hudson's presence certainly didn't go unnoticed.
"I think a few of the boys were running pretty quick today. I haven't seen them run that quick before," he joked.
Barbarouses is certain to feature in a busy year for the All Whites, along with club team-mates Andrew Durante, Glen Moss, Michael McGlinchey and Tom Doyle. Other current Phoenix players, including Matt Ridenton, Alex Rufer, Logan Rogerson and Louis Fenton have all featured for New Zealand during Hudson's tenure, while James McGarry has long been considered an All White in waiting and Hamish Watson is also in the mix.
"It's great that he makes that effort. He's very active behind the scenes, (which) other people don't see," said Barbarouses.
"Just showing his face here, even for the younger guys is invaluable. I'm guessing they'd want to be in front of him every day if they could, considering the year we've got ahead. It's great for him to show he's watching."
The All Whites next face Fiji in home and away World Cup qualifiers in March and provided they can safely negotiate those two games, will play a home and away Oceania playoff in August and September against one of Tahiti, the Solomon Islands or Papua New Guinea. If they win that, an inter-continental playoff (again home and away) awaits in November against South America's fifth best nation with a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia for the winner.
There's also the small matter of the Confederations Cup in June, where New Zealand will face hosts Russia, Mexico and Portugal.