Jon Goodridge happy to be back in the spotlight again after injury
JON Goodridge has played in a host of big games for Gloucester – but, as he battled injury at Esher 18 months ago, the full-back thought his time in the spotlight had gone.
Goodridge, who was playing part-time at Molesey Road while working in property in London, was out of action with a nerve problem in his neck and feared he may never play again.
Instead, after fighting his way back to fitness and a career change that saw him end up at Jones Lang LaSalle's Bristol office, Goodridge was offered a route back into the full-time game by Liam Middleton.
And, after starting 23 games this season, the 31-year-old is now firmly back in the swing of things as a full-time rugby player – and loving every minute of it.
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He will start at full-back when Bristol go to Cornish Pirates in the first leg of their Championship semi-final on Monday – a game that will no doubt rekindle memories of high-pressure games against Munster, Stade Français, Leicester and the rest during his Gloucester days.
"At times, this kind of occasion has seemed a long way off, especially 18 months ago around Christmas when I injured my neck and wasn't sure that I'd ever play again," said Goodridge.
"Luckily enough, I got fit and started speaking to Liam when I moved to Bristol to work at King Sturge – and I'm very grateful that he gave me the opportunity to play full-time again. I'm just enjoying it and it's great to be in this scenario.
"A year or 18 months ago, I never thought I'd be back in big games like this, so to be given the opportunity to play in them is fantastic. I hadn't played in a big game like this for a long time, so it's nice to be involved, and we've had a few big games in front of the Sky cameras this season.
"You don't realise how lucky you are to be involved in these games until you're missing out on them, which I was last year. Hopefully, there will be a few more this season and many more next season.
"When I first played for Bristol, I was just grateful to be back playing rugby full-time and doing day-to-day what I love doing.
"It makes you appreciate the game a lot more and makes you realise how lucky you are. I'm enjoying the training and every game I get to play and being back in this situation."
But while Goodridge is first relieved and then delighted to be back involved in high-pressure rugby in front of the television cameras, he is also eager to avoid losing sight of what has served Bristol so well this season.
Throughout the camp this week, there has been talk of focusing on emulating the good things they have done all season and not getting too caught up in the occasion.
That may sound easier said than done – but it is a mindset Bristol are eager to adhere to.
Goodridge added: "We've played them three times already this season, including the B&I Cup, so we're not looking at this as the be-all and end-all of our season. We're trying to look at it as another league game that we want to go and get a result from. Their league position tells us they are a good side – but we're a good side as well.
"We've been concentrating on ourselves this week, making sure we've got the right game-plan going into the game and making sure our skills are up there and we know our patterns.
"We maybe had a little blip at the start of the play-offs, where we weren't playing our best rugby, but we still remained unbeaten with a very good defensive record.
"We'll just try to carry on with that. The boys are confident at the moment, so it's just about going down there with the right mindset."