Ben Sigmund will make his 150th appearance for the Wellington Phoenix against Central Coast Mariners at Eden Park on Saturday – an incredible achievement for a guy who turned his back on football and took up rugby 10 years ago.
He made a good fist of that as well, scoring a hat-trick of tries in one game for the Sumner club.
Looking back on those 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,” he says.
“I decided to chuck it in and join a few mates who were playing rugby out in Sumner.
“In some ways it was a tough time. 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.
Sigmund did enough there to earn a trial with the Phoenix and was soon offered a contract.
“As soon as I signed that contract I dedicated my life to the Phoenix, being determined to get another contract then another.
“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.”
Someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, Sigmund has always tried to engage with the Phoenix fans and never turns his back on a supporter who wants a word or a signature.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game against the Mariners 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,” Sigmund 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 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.”
The game kicks off at 5pm at Auckland’s Eden Park. Get your tickets from Ticketmaster now, prices increase at the gate.