After seeing plenty of yellow cards last season, Wellington Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund has turned things around during this Hyundai A-League campaign.
The 31-year-old has collected just three cautions since an early-season blip when he was sent off in the 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory in week four, and joked he had become the team’s role model.
Defensive partner Manny Muscat sat out last weekend’s loss to the Brisbane Roar after accumulating his fifth booking of the season and skipper Andrew Durante and midfielder Tim Brown will miss this Saturday’s crucial clash with league leaders Central Coast Mariners after also amassing five yellow cards each.
Keeping his discipline has been an area Sigmund has worked hard at.
“Last year I got up to about seven or eight cards. You are disappointed in yourself but you’re also disappointed when you let the team down,” the New Zealand international said.
“When you miss games you are absolutely gutted so it’s something that I’ve worked really hard on.”
Sigmund is one of the leading candidates to take over the captain’s armband from Durante at Bluetongue Stadium after his central defensive partner was given a yellow card for dissent towards an assistant referee last weekend.
“I’ll have to keep my mouth shut,” Sigmund quipped.
“For some reason I seem to be the role model at the moment. I’ve only got three yellow cards and he’s got five.”
At this stage in the season losing key players to suspension can be costly – as the Phoenix found out last weekend.
That 2-0 loss to Brisbane saw them slip to third spot on the A-League ladder and another loss on Saturday will see the pressure increase to remain in the top four.
“From a leadership point of view it’s always important to have him on the pitch,” coach Ricki Herbert said of Durante. “But he’s not and people need to step up now.”
“Andrew’s form this year has also been outstanding so his performance as well as leadership is certainly going to be missing.”
Sigmund, however, is confident the Phoenix can bounce back from last Sunday’s disappointment.
“(The Mariners) home record is not that good and I think we’ve got to take advantage of that. I’m fully confident we can get something from the game,” he said.
“It’s always tough to travel over there but we’ve got a good record (away from home) at the moment. We’re three from three.”
As they did last month when they recorded back-to-back wins over Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets, Wellington will remain in Australia after Saturday’s fixture to prepare for the following week’s game against Sydney.