Wellington Phoenix striker David Ball has revealed he almost didn't return to New Zealand after the side's recent enforced stay in Australia.
In an attempt to complete their A-League season after New Zealand implemented a two-week isolation period for overseas arrivals due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wellington's players and coaching staff made the decision to relocate to Australia on March 18.
The following day, New Zealand's government closed its borders to everyone except citizens and permanent residents, casting doubt over whether Ball and the other non-Kiwis in the squad could freely return.
Ball's situation was especially worrying, given his wife Sarah and their two sons, Mason (8) and Jude (4) were still in New Zealand, with no guarantee their husband and dad could rejoin them.
"That night I was planning for my wife and children to meet me back in the UK," said Ball.
"I was trying to sort out some flights to the UK from Sydney for me so that was quite stressful. It was all a last-minute rush.
"Obviously it's not nice to have that thought in your head. I think my wife was a bit more upset than I was but I was just hopeful we could get back into the country and I could continue isolation back here with my family.
"I felt alright about the situation because New Zealand is quite an understanding place. I felt if we (explained) my family was still here, there was a chance I could get back."
On March 24, the A-League season was suspended. Common sense prevailed and Ball was permitted to return to New Zealand and reunite with his family.
Fellow Englishman Gary Hooper decided instead to return to the UK, but Ball was always keen to remain in New Zealand.
"The UK is in a lot worse place than New Zealand and I felt safety was the priority for my family," he said.
"We've got a good support network here in the local neighbourhood which has really helped us settle in. We've enjoyed it so much here that I wanted to come back. The outdoor walks are a bit nicer than the Manchester walks!"
Ball has enjoyed a standout debut season for the Phoenix, missing just one game (through injury) and making a major contribution with goals, assists and an insatiable workrate.
But like the rest of the professional sporting world, Covid-19 has put paid to any on-field action for an indefinite period.
"I was speaking to (Phoenix captain) Steven Taylor on FaceTime and we decided this must be what immediate retirement feels like," said Ball.
"It's just so strange. We don't know when we're going back, so it's quite a weird scenario.
"We're just trying to keep ourselves fit. I'm out on the bike or running or doing some programmes in the backyard. But it's just so up in the air all over the world. I've spoken to friends back in the UK and it's such a strange time for everyone in all different walks of life."
Doubly frustrating for Phoenix fans is the fact their side was enjoying an eye-catching season and on target for their best-ever finish. There is no guarantee the season will be completed, with Football Federation Australia set to provide an update on April 22.
Among the Phoenix playing group, a deep camaraderie has been built, playing a big part in their excellent campaign.
"It's tough. I miss going in day after day and having a joke and laugh with the lads and training together," said Ball.
"We text each other saying, how good would it be just to go and get a coffee?
"It's unusual not to be around your teammates at a time when the season should still be (on) and especially with how well we've been doing. We were all optimistic that we could do something really special."