This time last year, Jenny Bindon, Priscilla Duncan, Katie Hoyle, Maia Jackman and Hayley Moorwood were team-mates returning from the experience of a lifetime at the FIFA Women's World Cup.
Twelve months on, this Kiwi quintet are once again forming a hard-working and dependable unit at a FIFA tournament, although this time it is in the office rather than on the pitch that they are coming together in a common cause. The five China 2007 stars are, in fact, just part of a remarkable team of nine current and former New Zealand internationals currently carrying out key administrative roles in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup's Local Organising Committee (LOC).
Duncan, for example, is the LOC's Media Manager; team-mate Rebecca Sowden its Brand Manager, while Jackman - who turned out alongside Marta et al. for the FIFA Women's World Stars last year - has taken on the role of Venue Competition Manager. Never before, in fact, have so many players been employed in such a variety of key LOC posts, and Michele Cox - a former New Zealand star who set the standard for off-field accomplishments as her association's Head of Women's Football - believes the show of faith was fully justified.
The pre-tournament evidence would certainly suggest that the arrangement is proving mutually beneficial, with the LOC profiting from the same work ethic and camaraderie that unites the Football Ferns' dressing room. As Bindon, the country's No1 goalkeeper and LOC Venue Marketing Manager, explained: "This group of girls are not afraid to work hard. We do it out of love for the game."
Duncan agrees that motivation is key. "We're all passionate about football and committed to developing the women's game in New Zealand, so we're making every effort to make this tournament a huge success." Midfielder Sowden typifies the lengths to which these women have gone, having given up a prestigious job at a national television network to, in her own words, "combine my two passions: football and marketing".
Yet not even this shared devotion, nor their knowledge of FIFA tournaments from a player's perspective, has been able to prepare the 'New Zealand nine' for the fine detail involved in staging a global showpiece. "It has been eye-opening," admitted Jackman. "From my experience in China, you just turn up and take it for granted that everything is there for you. I had no idea the detail that goes into making a World Cup happen!"
Bindon readily concurs. "
Hoyle, one of New Zealand's emerging stars and an LOC Volunteers Assistant, will certainly have a new appreciation of the behind-the-scenes work that has gone into staging the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup when she travels to Chile directly after the upcoming U-17 showpiece. For the others, while their work in showcasing New Zealand to the football world represents a genuine labour of love, they admit that they would trade in their jobs in a heartbeat for the chance to take to the field. "I do get a little envious of the U-17 girls," Sowden admitted. "I would love to be playing in a World Cup at home."
Nevertheless, hopes are high among these senior internationals that their youthful counterparts will do the country proud, with Sowden among those backing Paul Temple's team to become the first-ever Kiwi side to survive the group stage at a FIFA finals. "I think they have a great chance of doing well," said the midfielder. "I would like to see them make it to the semi-finals."
If the Young Football Ferns can perform as impressively on the field as their fellow countrywomen have off it, they have every chance of justifying such faith.