Canterbury cricket's biggest fan leaves crease

WATCHING BRIEF: Stephen Goodliffe savours another day's play from the boundary edge.
WATCHING BRIEF: Stephen Goodliffe savours another day's play from the boundary edge.

Cricket in Canterbury won't be quite the same without Stephen Goodliffe watching from beyond the boundary.

Goodliffe was the consummate cricket viewer having rarely missed a day's play in Christchurch in the 40 years since 1974. His death, earlier this month after a short illness, will leave a void, having been as permanent a fixture as the sightscreen he invariably sat beside to take in the game from behind the bowler's arm.

Goodliffe, who was his late 50s, was there in all weather and well equipped for whatever climatic conditions Canterbury could deliver.

His umbrella was a constant companion, shading sun and the occasional shower. And there was food and drink plus a hammer and peg to ensure the umbrella was well set.

Goodliffe could easily have been a Canterbury selector, such was the time he spent watching matches and his knowledge of players.

But selecting, umpiring or scoring never appealed, which could have detracted from his enjoyment of the game.

"Patience is the key," he once said about the sport at first-class and one-day level.

"Just let the game unfold in front of you and relish its twists and turns." He would savour the delight of a classy cover drive, just as he would admire skilful swing, seam and spin bowling, an athletic catch or smart stumping. In his early cricket-watching days Goodliffe would set up near the back of the old No 1 stand at Lancaster Park before that ground was turned into a rugby-friendly concrete expanse.

From there he set his stall at QEII's at times wind-swept Village Green, Hagley Oval and Rangiora's Dudley Park , then Mainpower Oval.

He was delighted when Canterbury Cricket earned Environment Court approval to have their playing headquarters at the tree-lined Hagley Oval, the former home ground of his favoured club, Old Boys-Collegians.

While he got to watch the Wizards play there in the past season, he sadly will not get the chance to see the ground developed to full international status with the raised embankment and pavilion for the World Cup next year.

English-born Goodliffe's interest in the game stemmed from being taken as a child to watch an England-South Africa match in 1965. He recalls South African batting great Graeme Pollock playing a memorable innings.

His family emigrated from Britain to New Zealand the following year and, after an undistinguished playing career, Goodliffe took to seriously supporting then High School Old Boys, Canterbury, and New Zealand when it used to play in the city.

Goodliffe aligned himself with Old Boys at picturesque Hagley when their senior side was a powerful force at club level with the four Hadlee brothers leading its lineup.

His staunch support endured the ups and down of Canterbury and New Zealand cricket, making him well positioned to comment upon it.

"When I first started watching, Canterbury had a very good side. They still had some fine players like Paul McEwan, Rod Latham, David Stead, and Vaughan Brown during the 1980s but weren't as successful.

"It seemed to need Lee Germon taking over the captaincy to really get Canterbury back on a winning track in the 1990s." Goodliffe said despite the match-fixing and ball-tampering controversies which have wracked the game in recent seasons, he believed it will survive and thrive.

"You must remember that there is a lot of cricket being played below international level for the enjoyment of the game. I don't think there are any real fears for its future." Goodliffe said he had nothing but admiration for the men standing in the middle who are often the target of criticism.

"Just like the players they are trying to do their best. The pressure they are under at times seems inhumanely difficult. They are all doing their best in an impartial way." Goodliffe believed New Zealand Cricket had got the formula right for domestic cricket with a double round of first-class play. But as a traditionalist he detested Twenty20 cricket but accepted the one-day version of the game.

"T20 cricket is just too abbreviated to let the game flow. In the one-dayers the match can develop although there are big limitations on the bowlers who can be just turned into bowling machines." Goodliffe was able to indulge his love of the game by working as a freelance translator of French and German which allowed flexibility. He was unmarried but an ardent listener of classical music and an avid reader of books.

"I suppose it's the game I'm married to," he told The Press in an interview.

The Press