How rugby rescued Phoenix's milestone man

A decade ago defender Ben Sigmund briefly turned his back on football and took up rugby.

This weekend he will be on the pitch where he belongs – making his 150th appearance for the Wellington Phoenix.

Reflecting on those rugby days Sigmund shakes his head and smiles.

“I’d been playing for Canterbury for a couple of years and things hadn’t really worked out,” the retired New Zealand international said.

“I decided to chuck it in and join a few mates who were playing rugby out in Sumner.”

He made a good fist of that as well, scoring a hat-trick of tries in one game.

“In some ways it was a tough time,” Sigmund said.

“My Dad wouldn’t talk to me and certainly wouldn’t come and see me playing rugby.

“For me though it was probably the best thing I could have done because it made me realise how much I loved football.”

After a season back with Canterbury, a job transfer saw him shift to Auckland where he teamed up with Auckland City and did enough to earn a trial with the Phoenix.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“As soon as I signed that contract I dedicated my life to the Phoenix, being determined to get another contract then another,” the 33-year-old said.

“If I’m honest I’ve probably been quite selfish at times but I made the Phoenix my life, both on and off the field.”

On Saturday the Phoenix will host Central Coast Mariners at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Sigmund is confident of another good performance coming off the back of impressive wins over Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets.

“Every time I go out to play these days I feel I’m going to win,” he said.

“In Newcastle last week it never entered my head that we would lose even when we were a goal down.

“I knew if we stuck to our game plan we would get our reward.

“Ernie (Merrick) has changed a lot of things at the club.

“He has got us mentally stronger and understanding our roles better.

“For me personally him having us playing out from the back and insisting on discipline has made me a better player.

“He is also never satisfied with a good performance which is something I like.

“Ernie has instilled a different mentality into us and our confidence is up.

“Having said that he has made sure this week that no-one is over confident.

“He brought us down a peg or two at training and made sure everyone was focussed.”