Alex Goode feels he is the victim of a witch hunt at Saracens as the club’s all-for-one, one-for-all attitude goes out of the window when it comes to the squad’s fantasy football league.
The full-back, who was on Ipswich’s Town’s books as a youngster, is a runaway leader of the competition with his team Pique Blinders.
Goode is one of the five candidates for European Player of the Year and could cement that award in today’s Champions Cup final against Leinster in Newcastle. That would go down well with his teammates better than his dominance of the fantasy league which led to one of his colleagues, Jackson Wray, naming his side ‘Everyone vs Goode’.
Goode was even handicapped this season as the Saracens squad changed the way teams were picked in attempt to derail his hopes of winning for the third time.
“It’s gone quite well,” smiled Goode. “It is safe to say there are a lot of people wanting me to lose.
“I didn’t think I’ll get money off everyone that’s for sure. Jackson Wray has even called his team ‘Everyone Vs Goode’. People don’t seem to like me winning maybe I’m a bit too smug about it.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the smartest. I don’t have a family, which probably helps to start with but I take it reasonably seriously. I like winning. I am pretty competitive and obviously I like my football. Richard Wigglesworth is also good. I’ve won two of the three years so we had a draft this year and I got last pick. That’s my biggest achievement. I’m a bit more smug about that and I chose Sadio Mane.”
Goode, 30, was born in Cambridge and was an accomplished schoolboy athlete and a county tennis player as well as being in the Ipswich academy.
But it was rugby that caught his attention in the end and he joined the Saracens academy in 2006 primarily as a fly-half.
He was earmarked to the club’s No.10 for years to come but the rapid emergence of Owen Farrell meant he was kept at the back although he has stepped into the fly-half berth. An all-round footballer, Goode could play pretty much anywhere in the backline, a result of hours of practice as a youngster. Ipswich’s loss is Saracens’ gain.
“I was a good footballer,” he added. “I loved it but with my mum being a schoolteacher she didn’t really see the point of me travelling an hour there and back, falling asleep on the way home, twice or three times a week. When she said she wasn’t taking me anymore I didn’t really argue.
“I was very competitive and wanted to play every sport as a kid. I was pretty good at football at the time but I had a passion for rugby. I was willing to go out and practise when it was cold and wet. I never saw it as a chore. When you have that passion for anything in life you’re always going to work a bit harder for it. That is not to say that I didn’t work hard at football, I loved it. But maybe I loved rugby a little bit more.
“I was always a bit of a thinker as well. I always liked to analyse the best players in the world in all sports and understand why they were doing certain things. I’m quite analytical in that sense. And perhaps that helps as well.”
Despite Goode’s undoubted talent his face does not fit in the Eddie Jones era of England and he has won just two of his 21 caps, both in 2016, during the Australian’s reign. This weekend he will be pitting his wits against a team coached by his former international boss Stuart Lancaster, now at Leinster, who gave Goode his international debut in South Africa in 2012.
Goode’s last Test match under Lancaster came at the end of the disastrous 2015 World Cup which saw the coach exit Twickenham.
“He’s someone I worked with quite a lot with England and he obviously gave me my chance,” said Goode. “He has a great understanding of rugby. To go through what he did was pretty brutal but to go away and be as successful as he has been with Leinster speaks volumes for his character. Credit to him, he’s brought a lot to them, both in terms of his knowledge and the technical aspects of the game.
He’s gone back to what he loves most which is being on the field coaching. As England head coach he was always there but he wasn’t always so hands on. I think his strategy of bringing the best out of everyone and making sure everyone is working unbelievably hard and going in the same direction is what makes him a brilliant coach.