Ben Sigmund received an early birthday present today when he signed a new one-year contract with the Wellington Phoenix that will take him through to the end of the 2015-16 Hyundai A-League season.
Sigmund, who will turn 34 on Tuesday, the day after the Phoenix restart their campaign against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium, said he was delighted the club wanted him to continue.
“I thought hard about it and decided I wasn’t ready to stop playing just yet,” he said.
“After talking it through with Ernie (Merrick) we both felt I could contribute to another season.
“Actually I feel I’ve got better with age because I have matured as a player and as a person and Ernie has had a lot to do with that.
“I feel blessed that he came to the Phoenix when he did or this might not have happened.
“He sat me down and told me it isn’t acceptable not to be disciplined on the field, and you don’t see me giving away silly free kicks round the box these days or getting cheap yellow cards.
“It is also great to see where the club is moving and I want to be a part of it.
“The Phoenix has come a long way and it is exciting to watch the young boys coming through the academy.
“I am proud to say that I have been able to play a small part in helping provide a pathway for them that has never been available in the past.”
Merrick said he was pleased that Sigmund had decided to continue and suggested that there was no reason next season had to be his last.
“Ben is becoming, if he isn’t already, a legend at the Phoenix and is an iconic character,” the coach said.
“He feels he has never been the most skilfull of players but he always gives 100 per cent and is very coachable.
“They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but Ben has proved that saying wrong.
“His passing into midfield and to the front players has improved out of sight, and in the game against the Mariners at Eden Park he had a 90 per cent success rate.
“The partnership he has formed with Andrew Durante is formidable and very important to the team.
“In the last seven games we have only conceded four goals while scoring 18.
“You can only get into the finals if you score goals and you can’t attack in numbers unless you are strong at the back.
“That is where Siggy and Dura are so important in providing a foundation.”