OLIVER Gildart is braced for a fight to keep his centre spot in the Warriors side.
The teenager will spend Super League XXI locked in a three-way fight with Kiwi Anthony Gelling and Dan Sarginson for two positions.
And with other members of Shaun Wane’s squad, such as Joel Tomkins and John Bateman, able to cover the role, Gildart, who made his debut against Warrington last season, is happy to have to prove himself.
“There will be tough competition this year but I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he told the Evening Post.
“Last season was a massive learning curve for me but a great experience . I’m just going to play my own game and do everything I can to keep my place.”
Gildart played in the pre-season friendlies against Leigh and Salford, and will be hoping he has done enough to squeeze into Wane’s squad for the visit of Catalans Dragons this Friday. But the academy product has his sights set on the season as a whole, and wants to build on his Grand Final appearance last season by adding a Wembley appearance, and some silverware, to his checklist.
“Now I’ve had a taste of a Grand Final it’s made me more hungry to stay focused to get back there,” he said.
Despite seven first team appearances to his name, and four tries, Gildart admits he still has a long way to go in learning the step-up from under-19s rugby to Super League. An impressive string of performances earmarked him as one to watch, but he has been working hard to make sure he continues to impress.
“The physicality of the game is different, you have to step-up from under-19s,” he explained.
“You aren’t playing 19-year-old lads, you’re playing the best players in the world so you have to do the best you can do. You know what it’s going to be like but the hits are bigger and it’s more demanding physically on you.” Gildart can rely on dad Ian for advice though. He made 139 appearances during eight seasons with Wigan between 1986 and 1994.
And with one Final shirt already in the wardrobe, Oliver still has a way to go before his collection will outnumber his dad’s, but he is looking forward to the challenge.
“My dad is enjoying it, sat back in the stands,” said Gildart. “I think he wishes he was out there sometimes.
“He’s still got his kits at home so hopefully, by the end of the year, they’ll be up on the wall next to each other.”