There was handshakes and introductions all around at Wembley Park on Thursday for a GJ Gardner Homes Whanganui Athletic squad that might just be on their way to the top of the 2020 Federation League.
As he promised, new coach Tex von Kwiatkowski has gone out to both bring in or bring back a number of strong players, some who appeared for other league teams last season, along with a new international signing from Wales by way of the United States.
Meeting his team mates for the first time was Welshman Rhys Crane, who has played professionally in the United States, most recently for Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
Crane will be up the front and if von Kwiatkowski can get his way by introducing more attacking structure to the side, will be a contender for the Golden Boot.
But he won't be alone as the coach plans to add several attacking weapons to a side which had the second-best defensive record in the league last season.
To that end, coming home is Tesco Grunwald, a former Wanganui City FC club member who was part of last year's unbeaten champions Havelock North Wanderers, although a groin injury during the season lessened his impact.
"My expectations are to strengthen up the shooting force," von Kwiatkowski said.
Another to make his way home is Zac Farmer, a Whanganui lad who was part of the Palmerston North Boys High 1st XI in the league last year.
While still only 17, Farmer adds depth to the side, especially as the coach intends to close the quality gap between his starters and those who will come off the bench inside the final 30 minutes of games.
"This is what can make a difference," said von Kwiatkowski.
"Physically, [Farmer's] not as strong at the moment, but it's worth it to have him in there."
Another former von Kwiatkowski charge is Josh Ngapeka, who was with him in his previous coaching tenure with the Wanganui City Renovators and is a "work horse".
"He will do that until you need to get the pace maker."
Balancing the young heads is the return to Whanganui of the veteran Josh Smith, who spent the last couple of seasons with Palmerston North Marist.
Marist's Federation League title win in 2018 was followed by a disappointing 2019 when they could not maintain momentum, which included losing to Athletic twice.
Smith is understood to have been frustrated by the decline, and von Kwiatkowski said after a friendly chat over a coffee in town, the veteran was happy to return to his former stomping grounds.
"He is mentioning there is a good team spirit, he will be one of my team leaders."
Alongside the new faces, the core of the 2019 Athletic squad has returned, including a fully fit striker Ryan Holden and towering defender Shaan Stuart, who had a big influence when he returned from the United States midseason.
Von Kwiatkowski said Stuart is so strong in the air and can stabilise any team's defence, "which is very, very important in my football".
It all points to Athletic being legitimate title contenders, alongside Napier Marist, Havelock, and perhaps the unpredictable North End.
"I never make promises, 2-3 get injured [and] that situation has changed," said von Kwiatkowski.
"We will make Wembley Park a fortress, but away games [as well], that is possible."
There are changes across the park at Wanganui City as well, with the news the club firsts have chosen to move back down to the third tier Western Premiership.
Still recovering from his broken leg last year, Anthony Bell will be co-coaching a new look squad alongside the returning Kelvin Francis, as they usher in a host to youngsters to join the handful for remaining veterans.
An off-season exodus has made being a competitive Federation League team unlikely, especially with rookies not used to the long travel schedules to the Hawke's Bay and Taranaki for matches.
"Last year, towards the end of the season, we did lose quite a few players," said Bell.
"For a lot of the [new] squad, it's not so much a step down, as a step up.
"It's a massive step to expose them to the higher level. Probably more of a risk not worth taking.
"Rebuild this year, we try to focus more to the future than the present."
Bell is likely to make only cameos off the bench in this campaign, with the team leaders being Latham Berry, Max Davidson, Kyle Graham-Luke and Eli Fleming.
City still have designs on being Premiership contenders, as they were in 2017 when they barely missed the title by one competition point to Hokowhitu FC Rangers, with the title decided on the last games of the season.
The City and Athletic relationship in the past three seasons could be described as cordial, and Bell wished their neighbours nothing but the best for their 2020 campaign.
"There is still the rivalry and we're still going to get to play the one game at the end of the season [Charity Cup]."