KIWI Brock Messenger decided to give the Northern NSW NPL a try on the recommendation of goalkeeper Nathan Archbold.
This Saturday, the former New Zealand under 20s international will be hoping to get one over his former Brisbane Strikers teammate when Lambton Jaffas take on Archbold's Charlestown side.
Messenger and Canterbury United teammate James Pendrigh are debuting in the NNSW league this season with Jaffas, who host the Blues in round 10.
While it's Pendrigh's first time playing in Australia, Messenger spent 2014 with Sunshine Coast and 2018 with Brisbane Strikers in the Queensland NPL.
Archbold played at Strikers last season after moving for work but he has returned to Charlestown, who are on 12 points - two behind fourth-placed Jaffas.
Messenger, 23, looked at playing in the Hunter competition after speaking to Archbold.
"Nathan told me about the league here, and that it's a growing league and there's some good teams," Messenger said. "He said if I didn't want to stay in New Zealand he could get me in touch with some clubs here and that's how it worked out.
"I caught up with him for a coffee just the other day, he lives a couple of hundred metres away from where we are staying in Merewether.
"He's a good lad and it should be a good game. I think they need to pick up the three points and us as well, to keep in touch with the top two."
The New Zealanders made a delayed start to the season after Canterbury's run to the semi-finals in their national league.
Messenger, a wide defender, is also on the comeback from a knee reconstruction, and Pendrigh, a midfielder or central defender, has an ongoing foot problem. Both featured in the 1-0 loss to Magic on Sunday but Pendrigh played only the first half.
"I had to come off at half-time, but it's all right. I've been managing it for a while," Pendrigh said. "I should be right for the weekend."
Pendrigh, 25, said he came to Australia for a new experience and to get more game time in the off-season. His goal was to be a key player for Jaffas in their push for titles.
Messenger missed seven months of action before easing his way back with Lambton. He hopes to build towards a potential return to Finland, where he played one season.
"I'm feeling great and with the rehab, I'm in the gym four nights a week, so it's hard work but it's paying off," he said. "I'm nearly 100 per cent now but I just need to get my match fitness up.
"The reason I pretty much signed at Lambton was the off-field support they willing to give me to get my rehab sorted. They have good facilities, good physio and I'm able to see him often."
Kiwi national league imports have been a rarity in the NNSW top division in recent memory but Messenger said the competitions were a similar standard.
"It's pretty similar, but over in New Zealand, because it's a national league, there's slightly more money there which means better facilities and stuff like that," he said. "There's some really good players here which helps bring the league up."