James Goodger scoring for Wairarapa-Bush against Thames Valley. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Actions often speak louder than words, and that is something that resonates closely with Wairarapa-Bush captain James Goodger.

The Marist lock is never going to be the loudest on the rugby field, but he is a player that others are more than happy to follow.

It may be because he possesses all the traits people look for in a top-quality lock, and has a freakish ability to win aerial contests.

Or it may just be that his humble nature and willingness to help others – including coaching Marist JAB players – are attributes others can relate to.

Either way, there is no doubt Goodger is one of the most well-respected players in the Wairarapa region.

He was handed the captaincy when Cyrus Baker suffered an Achilles injury in a pre-season match against the New Zealand Army, and is growing into the role week by week.

“It was a bit of a surprise, but it’s something I really like doing and something I can look forward to in the future as well,” Goodger said.

“I’m not a big talker on the field – I try and lead by my actions.”

Goodger has been in and out of the Wairarapa-Bush team for six seasons, with injuries often forcing him out for extended periods.

He had never given much thought to the prospect of being captain of the side, but was relishing the opportunity to make the role his own.

“It’s not something I ever thought I would do but now that I’m doing it, I really like it.

“It’s something I want to keep working at over the next couple of years and I really want to push for a championship.”

His introduction to the role was not the easiest, as Wairarapa-Bush lost two pre-season games and their opening two Heartland Championship games under his watch.

But Goodger said the vibe within the team was always positive, and he had plenty of faith in the players within the squad.

“We’re always learning and we want to learn every game and build off that.

“We were all really gutted which is good – it keeps the competitiveness there and we’re really confident in the guys we have, but it’s just putting it out there with our actions.

“We’ve definitely got the skill and we just need to click as a group.”

They finally found that winning form on Saturday in a 26-5, bonus-point win over East Coast.

Goodger is constantly looking at how he can improve his game, and in his own time works on his skills and fitness to ensure he can get the best out of himself.

Before each game he sets himself a few targets, and aims to set an example for those around him.

“I try and make sure I do my own role as well as I can,” he said.

“I just try and outplay my opposition and that makes me strive to try and be the best.

“You have to step up that extra level and you want the boys to follow you.”

Goodger was set to make his boxing debut at the ‘Hands of Hope’ fight night in Masterton on September 1, just a few hours after leading the team against Thames Valley.

Unfortunately, his opponent dislocated his shoulder the week before, and the fight was cancelled.

“I trained hard for nine weeks and lost a bit of weight which wasn’t good,” he said.

“I went to the fight night anyway, and I definitely want to do it next year – you certainly have respect for boxers once you give it a go.”

If Goodger does make it into the ring you can guarantee he will give it 100 per cent, just as he does on the rugby field every week.