When Napier City Rovers Central League football team captain James Hoyle was home on holiday in the United Kingdom regular early morning updates were the norm.
"I missed four games and was getting up at 2, 3 and 4am and checking on how the boys were doing. They handled themselves well and could not have done any more. When I returned they were top of the league," defender Hoyle recalled.
Those victories also meant Hoyle, 22, wasn't guaranteed a starting spot upon his return regardless of being named captain at the start of the season.
"I always expected there would be competition for berths, Hoyle said in the countdown to The Thirsty Whale Blues eighth round clash against Lower Hutt City at Bluewater Stadium from 2pm tomorrow.
In his first weekend back Hoyle, who has played for the Blues since 2015, played for the club's premier division side while his team beat Havelock North 6-1.
Last weekend's first round Chatham Cup 6-nil win against North End of Palmerston North was his first game back with the Blues after five absences.
Last year's Players Player and Supporters Player of the season, Hoyle, is proud of the Blues six-win and one-loss record, as well as the 26 goals for and nine against on the points table.
"We've got that winning momentum and we have to keep the winning mentality."
"Lower Hutt have recruited a few good players. It will be a good spectacle but our quality will shine through at the end. We've got players who can make a difference in tight games."
A Hawke's Bay United summer National League player for the past two seasons, Hoyle, tasted Central League glory with the Blues in 2015, his first year in New Zealand.
"This is my first season as captain and I would love to be the one to lift the trophy at the end of the season ... it would be an amazing feeling," Hoyle said.
He knows consistent form for a Central League-winning team will also go a long way to securing him another contract with Hawke's Bay United.
"There's no other winter league team I will play for but Rovers and it would be good to get another contract with Hawke's Bay United. It's a pretty good lifestyle here," added Hoyle, who coaches three days each week and spends the other two moving stock around for Big Save Furniture.
Blues coach Bill Robertson is expecting another tough game against the fifth placed Lower Hutt City outfit which has recorded three wins, two draws and two losses.
Defender Jamie Wilkinson, with a broken toe, remains the only player on his injury list.
"It's important we continue to build on and improve the fundamentals we are working on in and out of possession," Robertson stressed.
While the Blues are at home tomorrow, Building King Havelock North Wanderers travel to Wakefield Park in the capital today to take on Wellington Olympic.
Keeper Nick Hayward, who has missed the last three games, will again be out of action with his broken leg, and centre back Campbell Whitworth is unavailable with a broken nose.
Olympic may not be as high on the points table as previous seasons, they're seventh, but Wanderers player-coach Chris Greatholder said they will still be tough to beat on their artificial turf.
"But if we perform to our potential we will have a chance of winning the game."
"We're still working hard behind the scenes with the aim of retaining Central League status after our late entry. We're pleased with the standards we have set."
Greatholder pointed out having the bye in the first round of the Chatham Cup last weekend was good for his troops mentally.
"It's allowed us to have the best preparation possible for this big game."
"This is our fifth trip to Wellington in eight games. But after this game we only have three more during the next three months so that should work in our favour as we work towards our big goal of staying in the league," Greatholder added.
The Hawke's Bay teams are:
Napier City Rovers: Ruben Parker, Liam Schofield, Drew Matthews, Karan Mandair, Martin Bueno, Patryk Misik, Wesley Cain, Joshua Stevenson, James Hoyle (captain), Danny Wilson, Heath Caldwell, Chris McIvor, Kaeden Atkins, Bill Robertson, Zac Madsen.
Havelock North Wanderers: Shaun Peta, Chris Greatholder, Vince Mackirdy, Ethan Dent (captain), Gagame Feni, Ben Foxall, Ian Paia, Liam Shackleton, Stefan Kitching-Nicholson, Che Jesson-Bentley, James Barclay, Oliver Chapman, Harry Fautley, Kurtis Mayney, Jared Bloor.