Captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is back in camp with the Kiwis in England after a week which took him from heroic Test match deeds in Auckland to the birth of his daughter Indigo in Sydney.
The 23-year-old Penrith Panthers star was reunited with his team-mates in Manchester on Sunday night after making the long flight via Dubai to England.
It followed a hectic time following his inspirational display in the Kiwis’ famous 26-24 win over Australia at Mount Smart Stadium on October 13.
It was originally planned that first-time captain Watene-Zelezniak would return to Australia later the day after the Test to be with his wife Purdy for the anticipated birth of their daughter last week.
Unbeknown to him, though, there were some anxious moments on the day of the match.
“My wife was having pains and those types of things but she didn’t want to tell me because she knew how big this game was for us,” he said.
“She didn’t tell me until after the game so I caught the first flight back early the next morning.
“She didn’t end up having baby until Wednesday but I was privileged to be able to have that time off and get back for my daughter’s birth and to support my wife.
“It’s awesome having a little girl (and sister for Orlando). She’s a real blessing to us. I love being a father.
“It was a bit tough to leave (to fly to England) but my wife’s amazing. She gives me the opportunity to be able to come over to represent our country.”
Watene-Zelezniak missed the Kiwis’ stopover in Dubai and Sunday’s first field session at the Wigan Warriors’ training centre in Orrell but he was back on the pitch when the squad was put through a searching examination at the impressive Manchester City FC Academy complex on Monday.
Following the run, he was on the road with team-mates Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jesse Bromwich and Kodi Nikorima plus coach Maguire for the launch of the Kiwis’ three-Test series against England at Elland Road in Leeds, the venue for the third Test on November 10.
Saturday’s first Test in Hull will be the ninth of Watene-Zelezniak’s career and his third international under Maguire’s coaching.
“He has been awesome. He gives us a lot of detail and no excuses for not knowing what to do in a game,” he said.
The Kiwis have a recovery day on Tuesday finishing with the entire squad – players and staff – going to Old Trafford to see world football giants Manchester United and Juventus meet in their Champions League contest in front of a sold-out crowd of close to 75,000.
Among the passengers onboard the Kiwis’ Emirates flight from Dubai to Manchester last Thursday was legendary former England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson, who was seated alongside Kiwi Jordan Rapana and then met Maguire after the flight landed.
On Wednesday the Kiwis train again at the Wigan Warriors’ training facility ahead of the first Test team being named on Thursday.