Cru­saders cen­tre Jack Good­hue has made every­one sit up and take no­tice of him in the last two years and evoke com­par­isons with the great Con­rad Smith.

STILL ONLY 22, JACK GOOD­HUE HAS LOOKED LIKE AN ALL BLACK IN WAIT­ING SINCE HE EMERGED WITH THE CRU­SADERS LAST YEAR.

NZ Rugby World - - Contents - Gre­gor Paul with the story.

I THOUGHT I WOULD JUST WORK ON MY SKILLS AND KEEP GO­ING. MY DREAM RE­ALLY WAS TO PLAY FOR NORTHLAND AND I RE­ALLY WOULD HAVE BEEN CON­TENT WITH THAT SO TO MAKE THE ALL BLACKS...’ JACK GOOD­HUE

Any­one who has seen Jack Good­hue play for the Cru­saders in the last two years will know that he looks like an All Black.

He has a rare com­po­sure for some­one so young; an abil­ity to re­lent­lessly be ac­cu­rate in his de­ci­sion-mak­ing and ex­e­cu­tion. That’s not to say he doesn’t bring ath­letic at­tributes of note. He does, but it’s the way he pack­ages his game that makes him such a good player. He has aware­ness, work ethic, dis­tri­bu­tion skills, a neat kick­ing game and a bit of pace and a bit of size that all come to­gether to make him such an in­flu­en­tial player.

There are emerg­ing mid­field­ers such as Vince Aso who have more pace and ex­plo­sive power, but not the same breadth of skills and ul­ti­mately aren’t able to have the same in­flu­ence.

And that’s why the 22-year-old Good­hue has found him­self in the All Blacks squad to play France. He made such a com­pelling case for in­clu­sion that the se­lec­tors felt they couldn’t leave him out. They had a look at him last year when they took Good­hue on the end of year tour, pri­mar­ily to play the game against the French XV and they liked what they saw. Re­ally liked it. How could they not? Good­hue was one of the stars of the show and made the step up look easy. He formed an in­stant re­la­tion­ship with Ngani Laumape in the mid­field and the coach­ing group couldn’t help but project for­ward and fore­see these two be­ing the All Blacks reg­u­lar mid­field in 2020. When Good­hue re­turned to ac­tion with the Cru­saders this year and de­liv­ered more im­mac­u­late rugby in the first 10 weeks, the All Blacks knew they couldn’t wait un­til 2020. The fu­ture was brought for­ward by two years and the de­ci­sion was made to in­clude five rather than the usual four mid­field­ers in the first squad of this year.

Wil­liams and Crotty will be given their op­por­tu­nity to stake their claim against France and es­tab­lish they are the best pair­ing and Laumape, Good­hue and An­ton Lienert-Brown will be drip fed into the ac­tion and if they de­velop the way the se­lec­tors ex­pect, there will be an in­ten­sity of com­pe­ti­tion that should drive per­for­mance.

Good­hue’s in­jec­tion into the squad now is a de­lib­er­ate plan to keep every­one on edge, to re­move any com­pla­cency and use the nat­u­ral com­pe­ti­tion to drive per­for­mance.

That worked well for the All Blacks in late 2014 and 2015 when they had a wider group of 40 gen­uine test play­ers com­pet­ing for 31 World Cup places.

“There are some guys, Sonny and Ryan who are very ex­pe­ri­enced and played a lot of min­utes for us and we have some young ta­lent and that is go­ing to get com­pet­i­tive be­cause soon enough in the fu­ture with a big tour­na­ment, five might not go into four,” says All Blacks se­lec­tor Grant Fox.

“So we need to find a lot more about these guys and test drive them a bit more. If we un­der­stand them we can grow them.

“We are lucky we have some ta­lent in this area as we have in the back three. There are some other areas that are a bit more chal­leng­ing – in the loose for­wards we are try­ing to find out a lit­tle bit more about what we have ac­tu­ally got.”

And this plan to slowly de­velop the next gen­er­a­tion around see the months How pres­sure year. that the won’t es­tab­lished sce­nario be­ing nec­es­sar­ily felt will by se­nior ev­ery de­velop be ob­vi­ous duo mid­fielder in will the to in­evitably every­one next later six in now but they by should Oc­to­ber, have if an the even coaches harder have task got pick­ing things a right, group of mid­field­ers than they did in June. “Of course I would love to play the French,” says Good­hue. “To play them would be spe­cial. But to do that I have to train well. They have se­lected five mid­field­ers be­cause they want us to put pres­sure on Sonny and Ryan. That is go­ing to be my job – to learn from them, to work to­gether and make this a bet­ter team."

Part of the rea­son the All Blacks were de­ter­mined to bring Good­hue into the squad at the ex­pense of an out­side back, is that they like his tem­per­a­ment and world­li­ness. He is ridicu­lously wise and re­al­is­tic for some­one so young and as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has dis­cov­ered in his 14 years with the All Blacks, at­ti­tude counts for an enor­mous amount.

Good­hue is a young man who is en­tirely grounded and that may be be­cause he hasn’t pinned all his hopes to rugby. He hasn’t ever thought that he should be de­fined as a per­son by what he achieves or doesn’t on the rugby field and that traces back to his de­ci­sion as a teenager to leave Northland to board at Mount Al­bert Gram­mar School in Auck­land.

“Me and my twin brother [Blues lock Josh] went to MAGS in 2010,” says Good­hue.

“Our older two broth­ers had al­ready been there and they had a good time and played some good footy. So nat­u­rally my twin and I wanted to go.

“Rugby in Auck­land is fan­tas­tic be­cause it is at a higher level and you have to be more com­pet­i­tive and you get bet­ter qual­ity games and it set me up. I went down to Lincoln Uni­ver­sity af­ter that on a rugby schol­ar­ship. They have a great rugby pro­gramme.

“It was ed­u­ca­tion driven. I wanted to study agri­cul­tural sci­ence and I could do that at Palmer­ston North with Massey or at Lincoln and I fig­ured go to Christchurch be­cause I had a schol­ar­ship and I though the rugby com­pe­ti­tion might be a bit bet­ter.

“I was for­tu­nate enough that Can­ter­bury were short on mid­field­ers in 2014 and I got my op­por­tu­nity.”

Lady Luck opened the door to the pro­fes­sional ranks and Good­hue was good enough to walk through and make the most of it.

But it’s easy to be­lieve he’d have been just as con­tent, just as happy to still be play­ing club foot­ball. He never ex­pected that his dreams would be ful­filled. Yes, he wanted to be a pro­fes­sional foot­baller but not at all costs.

He had a strong Plan-B and there­fore has never been ob­sessed about mak­ing it or driven by some sense of en­ti­tle­ment.

“I think it was al­ways some­thing I wanted,” he says. “I wasn’t build­ing my self-worth around it. If it didn’t hap­pen I wasn’t go­ing to be dev­as­tated and I had back-up plans and ideas about what would hap­pen.

“I didn’t get picked for the New Zealand Bar­bar­ians or Sec­ondary Schools and I knew there were some good play­ers out there.

“I thought that at that age I de­served to make the Bar­bar­ians but it is such a hard team to select at that age be­cause you have so many schools and so few se­lec­tors they are never go­ing to get it right all the time.

“I just thought I would carry on do­ing what I was do­ing and play­ers de­velop at dif­fer­ent ages. You have got guys who can be fully grown men at 18 play­ing school­boy rugby and when you have that con­trast they are go­ing to dom­i­nate at that age.

“I didn’t think too much of it. I thought I would just work on my skills and keep go­ing. My dream re­ally was to play for Northland and I re­ally would have been con­tent with that so to make the All Blacks…”

It’s the ease with which he ab­sorbed his sit­u­a­tion and ra­tio­nalised the big­ger pic­ture that sets Good­hue apart from many of his peers. Not every­one can be so philo­soph­i­cal or ac­cept­ing of re­jec­tion.

Not every­one, par­tic­u­larly among a gen­er­a­tion who have only known in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, can see that one dis­ap­point­ment is not a rea­son to give up.

It’s not un­com­mon for re­jec­tion to be the ad­ver­sity that de­stroys the drive and mo­ti­va­tion of some young­sters. It’s of­ten those who have en­joyed se­lec­tion in age-grade teams through the ranks, who sud­denly quit the game when they don’t make the cut.

The re­sent­ment builds, the bit­ter­ness grows and soon enough the de­sire to fight back ends. Not with Good­hue. His re­jec­tion wasn’t the mak­ing him of as such, but it was an­other re­minder that noth­ing at the high­est level can be taken for granted and that miss­ing out at 17 isn’t rea­son to be­lieve you will au­to­mat­i­cally be miss­ing se­lec­tion for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

“I guess if you are go­ing to throw it all away for not mak­ing one team you re­ally should check your at­ti­tude as you are not go­ing to go far any­way,” says Good­hue.

“My twin brother made the sec­ondary schools team and I wasn’t jeal­ous of him at all. I was re­ally happy for him and me and my dad went over to watch him play in Syd­ney against Aus­tralia and that was great.

“There have been so many play­ers…Luke Ro­mano was third XV or some­thing and that just shows you that if you stick at it you have a chance.

“It is fan­tas­tic to be in this sit­u­a­tion. I have worked hard if it hadn’t hap­pened over for me I would have just worked hard and

kept go­ing.”

With such an ac­cept­ing at­ti­tude and wider out­look on life, Good­hue in­vites com­par­isons with former All Black Con­rad Smith. He’s equally ar­tic­u­late and like Smith, Good­hue has built strong ca­reer foun­da­tions in an­other dis­ci­pline.

He gets, even at 22, that there is a big, bad world out there where peo­ple have to get up early work hard for long hours and take home nowhere near the same pay as pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers.

Good­hue has noth­ing but grat­i­tude for the po­si­tion in which he now finds him­self which again was ar­guably the key emo­tion which drove Smith through­out his All Blacks ca­reer.

So far, though, the com­par­isons with Smith which have been made are based on how Good­hue plays. He is sim­i­lar in that he is a player, much like Smith, who ap­pears to be on a quest to make oth­ers look good.

He has that same self­less qual­ity and that same de­sire to work for the 80 min­utes even if there is not much in the way of ob­vi­ous, head­line-steal­ing glory to be had.

So how does Good­hue feel about be­ing com­pared with Smith? It’s not al­ways easy for an emerg­ing player to live in the shadow of some­one who is no longer play­ing.

New play­ers want to be recog­nised for who they are and what they bring. But Good­hue is quite happy with it all.

“What I do is try to take the best from any­one and try to bring it into my game,” he says.

“Con­rad was great on de­fence and a very good dis­trib­u­tor so I try to bring that into my game. When I was watch­ing him I was still quite young so I wasn’t watch­ing the finer de­tails but he was still in­spi­ra­tional.

“He was a hard worker and I have been com­pared with him a few times. I guess I pride my­self on my tack­les and try to be very ac­cu­rate when I can be. Be­ing com­pared with play­ers… as long as it is a good thing…I don’t mind it I guess.”

CON­RAD WAS GREAT ON DE­FENCE AND A VERY GOOD DIS­TRIB­U­TOR SO I TRY TO BRING THAT INTO MY GAME. WHEN I WAS WATCH­ING HIM I WAS STILL QUITE YOUNG SO I WASN’T WATCH­ING THE FINER DE­TAILS BUT HE WAS STILL IN­SPI­RA­TIONAL.’ JACK GOOD­HUE

EASY RIDER Good­hue has never pinned all his hopes on be­ing a pro­fes­sional rugby player.

JACK GOOD­HUE

[ABOVE] BIG MO­MENT Play­ing for Northland was Good­hue’s long term goal.

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