Double-century milestone for amiable umpire
"PLAYERS make a comment when umpires get to the ground. When you see him arrive, it's always 'Darren's the best'."
That was how Jason Krejza summed up umpire Darren Goodger's credibility in the Sydney Grade Cricket scene.
From local grade matches to the Ashes Test at Lords, umpires - the men assigned to adjudicate on a cricket pitch - come under their own microscope of scrutiny from the playing group every time they take the field.
While not always a fair trial, over time the general consensus of the mob provides a fairly accurate portrayal of an umpire's standing in the game.
Goodger has taken his level of umpiring to a standard that when he pulls into North Sydney Oval this Saturday to officiate his 200th Sydney first-grade match, the players from home side North Sydney and competition leader Manly will collectively breathe a sigh of relief.
"He's respected among everyone," Krejza said.
The 32-year-old Krejza, who has played two Tests and eight ODIs for Australia, is a seasoned campaigner for Mosman. Goodger, who also umpired his first match at North Sydney Oval in February, 2000, has held the off-spinner's cap on countless occasions throughout his career.
"Darren's the best," Krejza said. "What's really important is for umpires to have good rapport with the players and that comes naturally for him. He can be light-hearted, but when he needs to pull players into line, he's very good at it.
"It's also his work coaching the umpires. I was at the Australian Country Championships at Bendigo earlier this month and to see the work he has been doing, it's unbelievable. He knows it all inside out as much as anyone in the world."
In his role as Cricket NSW state director of umpiring, the 43-year-old was also in Tamworth last month overseeing the umpires, including Grafton's Jeff Hackett and Bruce Baxter and Maclean's Rob Pye, for the Country Shield finals, ultimately won by Clarence River.
These days as an umpire progressing through the ranks, Baxter answers to Goodger. But he remembers his teaching days as the South Grafton High School cricket coach when a plucky youngster put his hand up to be the team's umpire.
"The school was in the semi-final of a state knockout and we needed to take an umpire," Baxter recalled.
"He made a blue in that game. But on the bus home, it didn't matter one iota to his classmates. Even the other kids had respect for him. Once he decided to give it a go, it didn't take him long to become a first-grade umpire in Grafton. His decision-making was very sound and he had good rapport with the players, which was key."
Goodger went on to umpire seven consecutive Clarence River first-grade grand finals between 1995 and 2001 and has so far umpired the Sydney first-grade grand final on five occasions.
Tomorrow Goodger will become just the eighth person to umpire 200 Sydney first-grade matches.
HIGHLIGHTS OF GOODGER'S CAREER
- Started umpiring in CRCA in 1988-89
- Appointed to Country Representative Umpire Panel in 1998
- Appointed to NSW State Umpire Panel in 2002
- Made Sydney first-grade debut in February 2000
- Umpired eight Futures League matches, two T20 PL matches in Bangladesh (2009), Aust Country XI v NZ (2002), Tas v NZ (2002), NSW v England (2006), CA Chairman's XI v India (2008), three Big Bash matches, six domestic one-dayers
- Umpired Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Tasmania at the SCG in 2007 which saw the first-class debut of the late Phillip Hughes
- Won the George Borwick Memorial Award for NSW Umpire of the Year a record seven times
- Made life member of Clarence River District Cricket Umpires Association (2001) and of NSW Cricket Umpires Association (2009)
- Current Cricket NSW state director of umpiring and executive officer of NSW Cricket Umpires Association