Ben Sigmund back and primed
Proud Cantabrian Ben Sigmund never dreamt he would be playing against a team in red and black on his Christchurch home turf.
But that's the scenario the Wellington Phoenix's two-time player of the year award winner will face against A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers at AMI Stadium on Sunday.
"I definitely won't be getting confused but I certainly like the colours," the former Canterbury United quipped.
Sigmund is excited at playing in Christchurch for the first time since he headed home a last-minute winner in an A-League competition game at the former AMI Stadium in December 2010.
Asked if he thought he could repeat that dramatic feat, Sigmund said: "I'd like to think so, it certainly created memories from the last time we played down there."
"But I'm just looking forward to going home and playing in my hometown."
Sigmund captained Canterbury United in the national league before joining Auckland City. He got his break at the Phoenix as a 27-year-old in 2008-09 and quickly became a firm fan favourite on his way to winning the player of the year award for the past two seasons.
The adopted Wellingtonian is so popular in the capital he scooped four prizes at the club's last prizegiving.
But he remains red and black to the core. "I guess I've got two homes really but I think Canterbury is always going to be home. People always ask me who I support in the rugby and I say ‘I will never change from Canterbury'."
"But I really enjoy Wellington too, it's a great city."
Sigmund said he and fellow former Canterbury United team-mate Jeremy Brockie were "really excited about" playing in front of former team-mates, coaches and friends and family.
"We've got great memories of the old playing days with Canterbury United and it will be good to come down and see the likes of [former coaches] Danny Halligan and John Brown again."
It will a flying visit for Sigmund because the Phoenix head home to Wellington "straight after the match" for a recovery session on Monday. But he got a leave pass from coach Ricki Herbert to "fly down [last night] and see Mum and Dad quickly before I join the team".
Herbert holds Sigmund in high regard and said the 31-year-old was "a blueprint for local players aspiring to get a professional contract". He said Sigmund took about three months to adjust to training every day but once he got up to standard he had never looked back.
Sigmund's central defensive partnership with captain Andrew Durante is one of the best in the A-League. "We've played 60 to 70 games together now and each time we play together we seem to understand each other more and more," Sigmund said. "I just really enjoy playing with him".
The pair were involved in a fracas with the Newcastle Jets in a pre-season game last month with Sigmund copping a three-match suspension.
He served that on the Phoenix's tour of India and has now put it behind him. "We're all on final warnings, we've had our hand slapped," he said. "We just need to make sure we stay disciplined."
- © Fairfax NZ News