With the departure of two of its brightest young stars, Nelson Suburbs has wasted little time recruiting top talent to fill the boots of Matt Tod-Smith and Bertie Fish.
The club has signed a pair of experienced European players to the books as they look to build on a successful 2018.
Cameron Gordon brings a wealth of experience from England having signed on with the Swindon Academy at eight-years-old.
The 23-year-old striker spent his childhood playing against glamour clubs Chelsea and Manchester United but says his dream has always been to travel the world playing the game he loves.
Cameron came to New Zealand in September where he signed on for Southern United.
However, due to the import quota, he spent the season on the sidelines.
Hungry to continue his career in the country, Cameron called various clubs in New Zealand to begin his next chapter.
When new Suburbs director of football Ryan Stewart offered him a spot on the books, Cameron jumped at the opportunity. “It wasn’t a hard sell.”
Cameron says while the cut-throat environment of academy life helped him become a disciplined player and person, he eventually chose the education path.
“Swindon is not biggest club but to get to train on the biggest grounds against great players was amazing, but the atmosphere changed once we turned 16.”
He says the atmosphere turned sour as players chased contracts, prompting him to leave the academy and go to college.
After completing his A-levels, Cameron attended Loughborough University.
Cameron says while his size is an asset, he has much more to offer. “I can help create, run into channels to stretch the defence and hopefully pop the ball in the net.”
He graduated with a degree in sports science so has a safety net should football not work out. “Less than one per cent of players make it so I think I made the right decision.”
Ryan’s recruitment drive has also lured Irishman Bryan McClelland, who had recently hung up his boots, out of retirement and to the region.
The centre half had been playing men’s football as a teenager but gave up the game to work in Australia.
“I went on a working holiday just to get away from home and enjoy the sunshine and city life.”
After six months working in construction, the desire to be back on the pitch became too much.
“I missed football and wanted to get back into it. When Ryan heard I had moved to Sydney and that I wasn’t playing, he offered me the opportunity to come to Nelson.”
The 24-year-old had represented the semi-professional Limavady United as well as Northern Ireland schoolboys.
His Limavady side enjoyed unprecedented success having won back-to-back trebles with two league championships and two cups in two years.
He says while playing in the heat has been an adjustment, he is loving being back.
“There was a bit of rust at my first training, but I’ll just look to get the fitness levels up as quick as possible.”
Bryan joins fellow Northern Irishmen Corey Wilson and James McClay in the Suburbs’ squad to make up a strong defensive trio.
“I want to keep as many clean sheets as possible.”
While his primary goal is to contribute to another successful season, he will be sure not to forget the fact he is living his dream.
“Not many people get the chance to move to the opposite side of the world to play football, so I just want to enjoy it.”
Suburb’s season kicks off on March 9.