My Debut | Alex Goode
As one legend at Saracens bowed out, so another took his first steps for the club. After 15 years at the club, England and British & Irish Lions back row legend Richard Hill finally hung up his boots.
As he stood down, Alex Goode made the first of his current tally of his record equalling 338 appearances for the club in a win over Bristol. Also in the side was the man whose club appearance record Goode has now eclipsed, Kris Chesney. The game was switched from Vicarage Road because Watford were involved in the Championship play-offs.
SARACENS DEBUT: 10 May, 2008 - Saracens 25-20 Bristol, stadium:mk, Milton Keynes (Att: 8,050)
As debuts go it was pretty eventful. The game had to be moved from Vicarage Road to Stadium:MK in Milton Keynes, Richad Hill made his 288th and final appearance for the club, head coach Alan Gaffney waved his goodbyes before returning to Leinster and Paul Gustard also hung-up his boots at the end of the game.
The 20-year-old Alex Goode at least had his Academy colleague, and England U19 and U20 teammate for company in his first competitive outing for the senior Saracens side. It was Cato’s second start and he bagged a try.
But this game wasn’t about the youngsters it was all about the legend that was, and still is, Richard Hill. Even Alex got asked about him in the build-up to the game. Just to make Hilly feel old, the Sky Sports preview pointed out that Goodey was only five when Hill had made his debut for Saracens some 15 years earlier and was still at school when the flanker had lifted the William Webb Ellis Trophy with England in 2003.
"He's an absolute legend and it's been fantastic to have trained with him over the past few years. To have the chance to play with him on Saturday will be a memory that will always be with me," said Goode.
"I remember cheering on England in that World Cup campaign while I was still at school, so to have watched his finest hour, and then to be on the same field in his final match, will make Saturday an extra special occasion for me."
Well said young man! And some day it turned out to be, with a last-gasp try from Kameli Ratuvou, topped off with a Goode conversion, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat.
So, what was Richard Hill’s verdict on the new man at No 10 for Sarries that day?
“I remember Goodey as a rather raw and young fly half at the time. Since then, he has gone on to prove to be pretty adept in playing at No 10 or at full back. He was full of confidence and was a free running player who always wanted to play with the ball in hand. I only got to play with him in that one match, but then I was given the task of mentoring the next season in the Academy.
“He has a great side-step and a rather unique step-swerve that takes him away from opponents. His natural default has always been to counterattack. For him to overtake a player like Kris Chesney, who I played with for so long and hugely admired, is an amazing achievement. This weekend will be his 339th appearance for Saracens, but there will surely be many more.
“He has flourished in the Saracens squad and is one of the greatest examples of how you bring through players at your club. I was lucky enough to play with some great imports in my time, many of whom arrived just as my career was taking off. But there had to be a time when Saracens created their own stars and Goodey is definitely one of those. “It takes discipline, dedication, desire and determination to keep going for as long as he has, and you have to take care of yourself. He has always appeared to enjoy his rugby and there is also a driven side to him that is another key to his success.
“He has turned into a role model at the club, ‘Mr Ultra-Reliable'. He also likes to enjoy himself as well and is a bit ‘old school’ off the pitch.”