Ash Dixon doesn't actually know when he'll be boarding a flight to Japan but remains determined to give everything he can to the Hawke's Bay Magpies until that moment.
The original plan was for the 33-year-old hooker and his family to depart New Zealand shortly after the end of the NPC.
But with the competition now four weeks behind schedule, the Magpies captain could be required to report to new team NEC Green Rockets before the campaign finishes.
"That's out of my control, I'm just trying to do what I can for Hawke's Bay and my teammates before I get summoned," Dixon said.
The Magpies have been back in training under Covid alert level 2, and Dixon said it has been refreshing to be among the players and coaches again having missed them in lockdown.
The Dixon family moved in with some friends for that period, and he said they made the best of a challenging situation.
"I don't know if we could've kept doing it for any longer, but in saying that it was good just to get a bit of time off and hang out with the fam," Dixon said.
"In the last four to five years it's just felt like I've been on the treadmill the whole time, consistently, and haven't been able to really pull myself out of the rugby bubble."
That's part of why the Māori All Blacks skipper opted to sign on for two years in Japan's Top League, a decision he said had been on his mind for a while.
"The timing was right for me and the family," Dixon said.
"I'm 33 now, and I thought, 'I've done everything I can to try to be an All Black'."
Dixon said he still wants to be the best he can be in rugby but wanted his family to be part of a new cultural experience by living overseas.
"I always wanted to go on my own terms, I didn't want to be shown the door or told that my time's up. I think as a player that would be really hard to handle, something that you love and you're passionate about gets taken away from you and it's out of your control," he said.
The Ngāti Tahinga man thinks it's a good time to leave the Magpies as well with young hookers Kianu Kereru-Symes and Jacob Devery ready to shine.
However, the province will need to fill a leadership void with the additional departure of head coach Mark Ozich, who this week was named as the Western Force's new attack coach for Super Rugby Pacific.
Dixon said he is proud of his mentor getting recognition for the "amazing" work he has done with Hawke's Bay:
"I'm just really stoked that he's finally got the opportunity to coach at a higher level that he deserves."
The former Highlanders co-captain said coaching jobs with the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises are hard to come by with the logjam of talent.
"Sometimes it can get quite political, it's more than who you are and what you're good at in terms of coaching," Dixon said.
Coach and captain are fully aligned in their belief that identity comes first in building a team – how they are perceived both internally and externally.
"The culture that [Ozich] and [assistant coach] Josh Syms have created around accountability in players and enjoyment has been outstanding," Dixon said, adding that he is confident it has filtered down for the group to carry on in their absence.
The illustrious pair are still here for now though, getting their team ready to defend the Ranfurly Shield against Bay of Plenty on Sunday afternoon at McLean Park.
Dixon said the visitors, who have won five of their last six games against Hawke's Bay, are a quality side who always get up for the Magpies.
"Battle of the Bays is massive on our calendar and theirs," he said.
"The boys are excited just about playing again."