Jai Ingham has just experienced his first day on All Whites duty and is looking to soak up as much as he can over the ones that follow before returning to Australia as a fully-fledged international.
The Melbourne Victory player joined a handful of other All Whites today as some of the squad took part in their first training session in Wellington, where Anthony Hudson’s side is preparing for an away trip to Fiji before coming back to the capital to host the same opponents next Tuesday.
Ingham was joined by the likes of Victory team mate Marco Rojas, Wellington Phoenix playmaker Michael McGlinchey, Vancouver Whitecaps fullback Deklan Wynne and domestic-based midfielders Clayton Lewis and Moses Dyer, as well as Phoenix youngster Alex Rufer, who has received a late call up to replace the injured Monty Patterson.
Ingham, 23, says he can only learn from Rojas and the other frontline All Whites who are set to join up with the squad over the next two days.
“He’s a really good player and I know exactly what he’s about,” he says of Rojas, who has been in sparkling form of late for the Victory. “It’s good to get amongst not just him but all the other players that are coming back from overseas. Being able to learn off players like that is going to be an unbelievable experience.”
While this is his first taste of an All Whites camp, Ingham did have some idea of what to expect after getting the inside word from Rojas.
“Whenever he comes back from a camp he is always really positive. This is my first time meeting everyone but Marco has said all the boys are really welcoming and that I’ll fit right in,” he says. “I’m very happy to be here and I can’t wait to get started.”
Coach Hudson is just as delighted to have the services of Ingham and has a lot of belief in the Australian-born winger, who qualifies for the All Whites through his Kiwi mother.
“He looked really bright this morning and it’s great to have him in the camp,” Hudson says. “He’s a really, really exciting player – he has loads of energy, is really attack-minded and you can see this morning just from one session that he’s someone who is really going to add to the group. We’re really pleased he’s here.”
Ingham will soon be joined in Wellington by another family member with younger brother Dane, 17, winging his way across the Tasman this evening. They are the first siblings to be called up for the All Whites since Neil and Kenny Harlock in 1997 and Jai says following in those footsteps was a proud moment.
“It’s huge, not just for me and him but for our whole family. It was amazing to get the call up with Dane and, if we can both get on the field at the same time, then I’m sure we’ll show what we’re made of.”
Choosing to wear the silver fern was not a hard call for the brothers to make.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision at all. I talked to Anthony and he was very positive, he has a vision of what he wants to do here with New Zealand football and it’s a very good thing to see,” Jai says.
“Even coming straight into the camp, I’ve seen how positive it is and how much everyone wants to win here. All the information they feed us is winning-related and that’s what we want to do.”
The decision for both Jai and Dane, who plays his club football for the Brisbane Roar, to pledge their international allegiance to New Zealand was made by the family as a whole.
“We all sat down together and made a decision that we would like to get a call up for the New Zealand national side,” Jai says.
“It’s wonderful to both be here at the same time. Australia has some very good players but we’ve got players who are just as good here.”
All Whites v Fiji – OFC Stage Three Qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
When: Saturday 25 March, kick off 1pm (2pm NZ time)
Where: Churchill Park, Lautoka, Fiji
When: Tuesday 28 March, kick off 7.35pm
Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand