Wellington A-League striker David Ball is thankful to be safe with his family in New Zealand, having feared they would be forced to return to the UK.
Phoenix A-League striker David Ball is thankful to be safe with his family in Wellington, having feared they would be forced to return to the UK following his team's aborted quarantine in Sydney.
Ball, his wife and two young sons have settled into life in lockdown, three weeks after the A-League's suspension was announced and New Zealand closed its borders.
However, it could have been so different for the 30-year-old striker, who was only granted permission by Immigration New Zealand to return home on the eve of the team's departure from their isolation base in Sydney.
Hurriedly-introduced border regulations to combat the spread of COVID-19 allowed only citizens and permanent residents a passage back, threatening to shut out Ball and Wellington's other import players.
It set in motion a tense night of phone calls trying to organise flights for his wife and children from Wellington to the UK.
"That was quite stressful and I was trying to sort out some flights from Sydney to meet them. That was all a bit of a last-minute rush," he told a Phoenix club video interview.
"The UK is obviously in a lot worse (pandemic hit) place than New Zealand is and I felt safety was the priority for the family.
"My wife was a bit more upset than I was about the whole situation but I was just hopeful we could get back into the country and I could continue isolation back here with my family."
Phoenix management convinced immigration officials to authorise the imports' return, something for which Ball remains thankful.
The former Fleetwood Town front man is desperate for an A-League resumption, having enjoyed his prominent role in Wellington's surge into third place and on course for their best-ever regular season finish with six games still to play.
The last of his seven goals came in their last-start 3-0 home win over Melbourne Victory just over month ago.
A recent video catch-up with Phoenix captain and fellow-English veteran Steven Taylor brought home how surreal their experience has become.
"It's just so strange, it's almost like we've retired, but we've not," Ball said.
"It was a feeling that this must be what immediate retirement feels like."