All Whites coach Danny Hay admits the decision by Gianni Stensness to switch allegiances came as a shock, especially off the back of the successful Olympics campaign.
Usually a midfielder, Stensness was a standout for the Oly Whites in Japan, employed as a centre back and performed with aplomb.
But the 22-year-old, who was born and bred in Australia but eligible to represent New Zealand through his father, has decided his international future lies on the other side of the ditch, after campaigns with New Zealand at the 2019 under-20 World Cup and the Olympics.
"It's really disappointing and a bit of a kick in the guts," said Hay. "Probably more for some of his teammates, the environment, the culture we built, particularly during the Olympics, we were there a long time together. He's like a brother and they might feel a little bit let down.
"He had a huge leg up from New Zealand Football to get where he has got to today, which has given him profile. He has to follow his heart but I have got no doubt he has been swayed by certain individuals. But there is no ill will from me."
Stensness first raised the possibility last month, during a phone call with Hay.
"To be fair I was shocked and a bit surprised because he certainly hadn't let anything out beforehand," said Hay. "I can only assume he had been approached previously, prior to the Olympics but he didn't let anybody know.
"I told him he needed to be very clear because he only gets one shot at this."
A fortnight later, Stensness confirmed his decision, though Hay suggested the die had already been cast.
"I guess in my mind, inside those two weeks, the fact that he was even considering it really, had given me clarity as well," said Hay. "We only want people that are 100 per cent committed.
"He sees himself as an Aussie, has spent his entire life there, bar a couple of seasons at the Phoenix and he said he owes a bit more to Australia. I can't argue with that and nor should he really, if that is the way he feels."
Fifa regulations allow eligible players to switch allegiances once before they have taken the field in a senior competitive international match.
Winston Reid, who represented Denmark at youth level, is the best-known example here, while Andrew Durante and Tommy Smith are others.
Hay is philosophical – "Joey Champness has come to us" - but disappointed in the timing.
"If he was considering this, and knew about it before the Olympics, the fact he didn't voice it is quite disappointing," said Hay. "I would have rather known before. That said he did well for us over there and he is a good player. But he is not a critical loss to us. We have got some real depth [in that position]."
The Stensness news came as the All Whites squad was named on Monday, for games against Curacao and Bahrain next month.
Most of the big names feature, aside from Ryan Thomas and Winston Reid. Thomas, with Hay's blessing, is focussing on club football with PSV Eindhoven and time with his young family, while Reid is still injured following the Olympic campaign.
However, the long-time captain will make the trip, in an off-field, mentoring capacity.
There are six uncapped players, with Eastern Suburbs fullback Kelvin Kalua the most unheralded.
"He's been a standout in the National League and he is based in Europe at the moment [trialling]," said Hay. "I know he won't let us down."
The other potential debutants are Matt Garbett, Marko Stamenic, Champness (who switched allegiance from Australia in May), Niko Kirwan and Dalton Wilkins.
No A-League players were considered due to the travel restrictions from this part of the world. The team assembles next week, ahead of the games on October 10 (Curacao) and October 13 (Bahrain).
All Whites squad
Stefan Marinovic (25 Caps) Hapoel Nof HaGalil, Israel
Nikola Tzanev (1 Cap) AFC Wimbledon, England
Michael Woud (2 Caps) Almere City FC, Netherlands
Michael Boxall (33 Caps) Minnesota United, USA
Nikko Boxall (3 Caps) SJK Seinäjoki, Finland
Liberato Cacace (3 Caps) Sint-Truidense VV, Belgium
Kelvin Kalua* (0 Caps) Eastern Suburbs, New Zealand (currently on trial in Europe)
Niko Kirwan (0 Caps) Padova, Italy
Nando Pijnaker (1 Cap) FC Helsingør (loan from Rio Ave FC), Denmark
Tommy Smith (38 Caps) Colchester United, England
Bill Tuiloma (26 Caps) Portland Timbers, USA
Dalton Wilkins* (0 Caps) Kolding IF (loan from FC Helsingør), Denmark
Joe Bell (2 Caps) Viking FK, Norway
Joseph Champness* (0 Caps) Giresunspor, Turkey
Matthew Garbett* (0 Caps) Torino, Italy
Sarpreet Singh (6 Caps) SSV Jahn Regensburg (loan from FC Bayern Münich), Germany
Marko Stamenic* (0 Caps) HB Køge (on loan from FC Copenhagen), Denmark
Andre de Jong (4 Caps) AmaZulu FC, South Africa
Elijah Just (2 Caps) FC Helsingør, Denmark
Callum McCowatt (1 Cap) FC Helsingør, Denmark
Chris Wood (57 Caps) Burnley FC, England
*Debut senior national team call-up