Danny Vukovic thought his Socceroos career was done before it even started seven years ago. But the veteran Sydney FC goalkeeper allowed the smallest sliver of hope to creep in, reasoning that if his time was ever to come, it would be now.
Vukovic has been rewarded for his career-best A-League form with a call-up to Australia's extended 30-man squad for March's crunch World Cup qualifiers against Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.
11 goals conceded in 22 appearances reads the 31-year-old's resume with the record-breaking leaders this season, a statistic he says tells a story of renewed confidence in a good team environment -- one that has also fostered the rise of another new Socceroos member in right-back Rhyan Grant.
Yet Vukovic is still pinching himself he's come into coach Ange Postecoglou's favour so long after his last involvement in a 2010 camp under Pim Verbeek.
Since then, the record-holder for most overall A-League appearances has plied his trade at the Central Coast Mariners, Wellington Phoenix, Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory along with a brief stint in Turkey.
But he never really regained his Mariners form until now.
"I felt as though my time had come in the national team," Vukovic said.
"Last time I was in Canberra seven years ago, and when you haven't been back in the squad in that long, I think you start getting thoughts that might be it.
"It had been and gone, and I felt a little bit like I'd blown an opportunity there.
"I certainly had hope after the season I've had -- I'm playing my best football I've ever played.
"But there were doubts that was it for me and the national team.
"I feel like this is a second chance -- if I'm part of that final 23-man squad."
With only three goalkeepers selected, it seems likely he will be, alongside Europe-based No. 1 Mat Ryan and second choice Mitch Langerak.
But Friday's A-League clash with Central Coast will still hold heightened importance in the knowledge Postecoglou will be watching closely before trimming the group next week.
Grant has previously talked down his chances of a breakthrough call-up for the problematic right-back position.
Even now, he required a pep talk from Sky Blues coach and former Socceroos mentor Graham Arnold, who urged the 26-year-old to simply play his game without feeling intimidated.
"I never really held myself in this sort of company, but Arnie said I've done really well and I sort of deserve it," Grant said.
"He said he'd only pick me if he thought I belonged there, so I've got to believe that."