OLIVER Gildart is set to crown his extraordinary rise through the ranks – by testing himself against one of the best centres in Super League on Saturday.
The teenager is set to feature in the Grand Final against Leeds after rocketing into the Warriors line-up in recent weeks.
Gildart, 19, has shown signs of a bright future since making his debut against Warrington in August.
And in his biggest game to date he is set for arguably his biggest test, with a duel against highly-rated England centre Kallum Watkins.
“He’s a great player,” said Gildart.
“I’ve watched him over the years and he’s dominated that centre position.
“For me, to become a good player, you have to play against people like this and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
If Gildart has suffered from any nerves since stepping-up from the Under-19s to the first team, he hasn’t shown it.
He has returned four tries from six Wigan appearances and settled into the left-centre role left vacant by Dan Sarginson’s season-ending injury.
And he is approaching Saturday’s title decider with the same measured approach which has set him in good stead during his breakthrough campaign.
“I’ve never done it before so I don’t know how I’m going to react to it,” he said on the build-up to the Final.
“It’s just a game of rugby at the end of the day and I’m going out to do my job.
“The atmosphere will hopefully just build excitement for me but I don’t know what the feeling’s going to be like.”
The former Wigan St Pat’s amateur admits he didn’t expect his season to last this long, even after making his first team debut.
His U19s colleagues wrapped-up another successful campaign with a Grand Final win over St Helens two weeks ago – a game which, not long ago, Gildart would have aimed for as his showpiece event for 2015
Instead, he will take centre stage in front of a sold-out Old Trafford and thousands more TV viewers.
“It’s been mad, really,” said. Gildart, who signed a long-term deal with Wigan earlier this season.
“I never thought I’d be in a semi-final and hopefully a Grand Final – you never know what’s around the corner.
“I remember seeing Budge (Joe Burgess) playing against the Roosters in the World Club last year and I was thinking, ‘Maybe one day that’d be me’, and that was a big drive which pushed me on.
“Waney says if you play well you’ll play, it’s simple.”
Gildart’s team-mates have been impressed with the way he has handled the demands of first team rugby.
Joel Tomkins said: “He’s really taken his chance.
“It’s nice to see a young lad come in and not just play well, but play well in big games.
“We’ve had some really tough games – he only came in during the Super 8s – and he’s shown what he can do.”