As Jack Goodhue chases his new puppy around the house you would be forgiven for forgetting he was carried off the field eight months ago. But when Charlie steps off his right paw he beats the defender and that’s when reality hits. “I may be a fair few months off yet,” Goodhue suggests.
When Charlie the border collie (who Jack makes sure I get the correct spelling for) arrived on the scene there was a lot going on in the Goodhue house. Newlyweds Jack and Sophia were in the midst of moving house, Jack had just had surgery, and Charlie was running amuck. “I was trying to toilet train the dog, Soph was packing up the house and I was chasing the dog around the house on crutches to stop her peeing on the carpet, it was such a mission.”
Only a few weeks earlier in mid April Jack was the one running amuck, for the Crusaders. It was round seven of Super Rugby Aotearoa. That night Goodhue made an innocuous tackle on Hurricanes centre Peter Umaga Jensen in what seemed like “just another tackle”, but he couldn’t get up. He knew the pain, he had done his knee before, that time he could walk off, but not this time. “I wasn’t sure what had happened, but you just kinda knew that it’s pretty bad.”
It was worse than that. It wasn’t just his ACL like 2015, his knee was basically blown to pieces, his ACL, MCL,PCL, it was like the alphabet of ligaments all gone in a split second. And as Jack describes, “it makes for a tough old rehab.”
In 2016 as a fresh faced 20-year-old farm boy from Kawakawa, Goodhue arrived at the Crusaders with no mullet and no ACL. “It was very intimidating, kinda like ‘what am I doing here? Having guys like Izzy Dagg and Keiran Read and Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty all of a sudden in your team is pretty daunting.” It was a blessing in disguise that he was rehabbing from his first major knee surgery and could ease into the environment. A year later, he was grabbing headlines and tries.
Goodhue wasn’t expecting much game time in such a star studded group, but he defied the odds and became a regular starter in his debut season alongside his midfield mentor Crotty. By season’s end, Goodhue touched down as the Crusaders beat the Lions in the Super Rugby Final at Ellis Park.
Fast forward to 2021 and while his Crusaders teammates were charging to the Super Rugby Aotearoa final, Goodhue was on crutches chasing a puppy around the house. When they were winning their fifth title in five years he was sitting on a stationary bike. When his teammate and friend David Havili was making strides towards first choice second-five for the All Blacks, the All Black incumbent was slowly jogging in straight lines. Even for a philosophical person like Jack, idle time is the enemy. “What goes through your head is ‘will I be able to come back and be the same player I was before?’.”
The time frame for a normal knee reconstruction is nine months, and Goodhue is hoping to be back playing by March-April. But there’s a fair bit to go through before then.
There’s no hiding his drive and determination. He's been through injuries that would have made others throw in the towel, but Goodhue’s not a quitter. By the time we chat, he’s just getting the confidence back to sidestep or “whack” as he calls it. Laughing, Jack follows it up with “not that I really have a whack on me”.
He’s mentally strong and is thankful for the extra time he’s been able to spend with his wife and friends from church. He meets up with his mates a couple of times a week to do a bit of worship and as the proud Christian explains it helps him to “get the heart right”. His faith reminds him there’s more to life than rugby. “It’s really hard to not let rugby consume you sometimes, particularly me because I can be quite obsessive and want to be as good as I can. To be at a professional level in NZ you’ve got to be somewhat obsessed, especially to stay at that level.”
In 2022, the rugby rollercoaster will start again with Goodhue, 26, trying to make his way back into the Crusaders starting side. He doesn’t care where he plays, he will leave that up to his coach Scott Robertson stating, “there’s benefits to both second-five and centre.” Goodhue’s realistic and knows nothing is a given especially given the competition at the Crusaders. McCaw, Crotty and Read have all moved on, but now there’s Braydon Ennor, David Havili and Leicester Fainga’anuku. Goodhue may have been the incumbent but he’s the first to heap praise on his teammates and friends, saying “they are awesome midfielders and I want to be the best but also be prepared to concede that there might be better players than me”.
Goodhue may not say this but anyone who has played with or against him will tell you he is one of the most driven guys you’ll ever meet. He never gives up and is ultra-competitive. He has set goals to push himself through rehab but nothing replaces a game. ”You just kinda miss going out there and competing against the opposition and the player you’re playing against. I love competing, ya know that's the part of rugby I miss.”
For the time being the opposition is Charlie the puppy, but there’s still plenty more fight left in Jack Goodhue.