The man affectionately known as “Goodge” to his friends – Executive Manager of the New South Wales Cricket Umpires and Scorers’ Association and NSW State Umpire Manager, Darren Goodger – recently marked 10 years of service with Cricket NSW.
Goodger is widely respected and greatly admired by players, colleagues and fellow officials alike, as an umpire, administrator and a person.
Distinguished NSW Blues and St George seamer Trent Copeland, who played three Tests for his country against Sri Lanka in 2011, said whether in the office or on the cricket field, Goodger always has a smile on his face.
“He has a good time doing what he loves to do and that has a real impact … on me firstly as a player, but now I would call him a mate,” said Copeland.
“I think that comes through mutual respect and understanding where people come from and what they’re about.”
“When I turn up and I see Goodge is one of the two umpires, I know that the game is going to be run with great spirit (and) it’s going to be good fun.”
Recently retired NSW Blues fast bowler Doug Bollinger, who also played 12 Tests for Australia, echoed those sentiments.
“He’s always happy for a chat and always happy to help you out and I think that’s … what makes him a wonderful bloke,” Bollinger said.
International and First Class umpire Gerard Abood is one of many umpires for whom the guidance and mentorship of Goodger has had a profound impact.
“It is amazing to me how many people he has a genuine interest in and knowledge of,” Abood said.
“(It’s) why I find him so helpful as a mentor as well because he just has that innate ability to just be able to understand what the situation is … and be able to give objective advice.”
Goodger began with Cricket NSW in 2008 and for the next four years worked as the Umpire Education Manager.
In 2012 he accepted the roles of NSWCUSA Executive Officer and Cricket NSW State Umpire Manager.
Throughout an umpiring career that spans several decades, Goodger has officiated 251 First Grade matches in NSW Premier Cricket and 335 matches across all grades including the longstanding Sydney Shires competition.
Amongst his proudest achievements as State Umpire Manager, achieving a full allocation of umpires to all grades of the NSW Premier Cricket and Sydney Shires competitions, on a week to week basis, is number one.
“I think the fact that we get (umpires appointed to) 100% of matches is probably the biggest thing, but that’s been a real team effort in doing that and because … it’s a team result, that’s why it makes me really proud,” said Goodger.
“In 2010/11 we had some (matches) without umpires and … in a fairly short space of time, we turned it around.”
Goodger said that this has applied “upward pressure” on umpires progressing through the grades.
“It’s important that the umpires in the top grades become comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
During the past six years, Abood believes Goodger has created an environment that supports self-improvement.
“He’s provided real clarity around what’s required, what it takes to improve, and he has also provided (the) resources to enable people to … improve their umpiring,” Abood said.
“(It’s) a real merit-based structure.”
Goodger has also implemented and overseen significant changes. One of those includes the improvement of the relationship between players and umpires.
Blues and St George batsman Kurtis Patterson believes there are now much better processes in place.
“Darren (seems to be) almost that point of call, where (if) we do have an issue, we can go through him and discuss the decisions… that umpires have made,” Patterson said.
“(That was something) that just didn’t use to be the case.”
“I think how effective (Goodge) has been in that role has allowed there to be a solid process in place, if umpires have issues with players and (vice versa).”
The progression of several NSW umpires to the elite level of the game is also a testament to his leadership.
Goodger has played a part in the development of many umpires now standing at a national and international level, such as Abood, former NSW Blues player Rod Tucker, Greg Davidson, Tony Wilds and Simon Lightbody.
Abood said there was one piece of advice that Goodger passed on that has always stuck with him.
“Others can control a lot of things, but they can’t control your attitude.”
On 10 March this year, Goodger umpired his 250th First Grade match in the Sydney Cricket Association and became only the seventh person to reach this milestone in the 105-year history of the NSWCUSA.
Since his First Grade debut at North Sydney Oval in February 2000, he has umpired in several First Grade Limited-Overs and Belvidere Cup finals, including the 2016/17 One-Day Grand Final.
Goodger has received the top honour for any member of the NSWCUSA – the George Borwick Memorial Award – a record seven times.
“As an umpire I’d say the best thing about him is he’s very direct,” said Patterson.
“He’s got a presence out there, but not too much of a presence, and if someone’s out of line … he lets them know straight away and I think that clarity is what you want in an umpire.”
“He’s happy to pull the reins in when he has to and have the harsh conversations … that’s part of his job,” Bollinger said.
“(But that’s also) what makes him a good umpire.”
Goodger started his umpiring career in Grafton and is especially proud of the opportunities that have been made available for country umpires under his leadership.
“We’ve opened up opportunities to country umpires (not) on the representative panel and supplementary panel … to officiate in Premier Cricket (in Sydney) and … country representative carnivals,” he said.
“It’s impossible these days for an umpire to be umpiring in a country competition and expect to umpire First Class cricket.”
Abood said: “He’s created an amazing atmosphere of inclusion.
“The emphasis he’s put on country umpiring, the recognition that it’s not about Sydney umpires, it’s about NSW umpires … (it’s) demonstrated the value that he brings to the role.”
Goodger said the support of his colleagues during his various roles at Cricket NSW has been crucial.
“I work with an outstanding team in Troy Penman, Nic Bills and Claire Polosak.”
“They are dedicated, talented, loyal and patient (and) serve the NSW match officials community with distinction.”
“Prior to that Sharad Patel and Jay Lenton were equally outstanding.”
He added that the performance culture of Cricket NSW also has great benefits for the development of match officials across the state.
“Our colleagues here (at Cricket NSW), they have contributed so much to what I call performance thinking … by being in the cricket performance team, you’re working with high achievers all the time.”