Sports biographies are often pretty disappointing. They are often premature and seem a little rushed. And just because someone was a great athlete doesn’t mean they necessarily had a particularly interesting back-story.
Ben Sigmund, while not New Zealand’s greatest ever sportsperson (Ernie Merrick describes him as a “panel-beater”) has back stories; several of them. The early career; the teen international on the scrap heap at 24 with no calls (or faxes) from NZ Football asking why, that season playing rugby for Sumner, and then the second wind as a professional footballer, and Phoenix icon.
The Bahrain experience in Wellington 2009, the way he became such a fan favourite, the disintegration of Rikki Herbert, the emotion of being away from his prematurely born son, the eccentricities of the Terry Seripisos era, and one of the most blatant acts of violence ever shown in an All Whites shirt. It is all laid out with refreshing honesty. One thing about Sigmund is that he is always up front; it appears like he got that from his grandmother.
That is a range of topics, and it’s all dealt with openly, and with quotes from a wide range of people involved at the time; Herbert aside.
The book starts with a recap of that game against Bahrain in November 2009; one of the great sporting occasions in New Zealand sport. It talks about the build-up, including the complete contrast of a motivational speech from Stephen Fleming to James McOnie leaning out of a car window.
The gradual falling of the Herbert reigns, at both club and country level are outlined that makes it seems like a Greek tragedy. The man had been loyally served by the players for years, yet it gradually crumbled. A lot of emotions are played out, but the main one seems to be disappointment.
The ugly stomp on the UAE player for the All Whites was a metaphor for how the senior players felt the All Whites were just drifting backwards.
The Mexico 2013 chapter is one that stands out. What a shambles of media liaison that was while an empire fell apart. Reading the book you are reminded of how inevitable it all was, including a truly bizarre Last Supper style night before the Wellington leg, and how nothing has been done to turn things around subsequently.
It is a book that binds together all these varied chapters of his life, noting that they were more intertwined than you might think at first glance.
Finally, there is this. For those who remember the Phoenix in the Seripisos era this says it all.
More book and promotional tour details here.