The words which are driving Gildart to more success with Wigan
The words which got him out of bed on the cold, dark winter mornings – and the words which have fuelled his pre-season training.
Minutes after Wigan’s season came to an embarrassing ending with a 32-0 loss at Wakefield, executive director and club great Kris Radlinski addressed the players in the crammed Belle Vue dressing room.
“He said to us: ‘You have to go through the bad days to appreciate the good days’, and that stuck with me,” revealed Gildart.
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“It made me appreciate the finals more.
“Every year I’ve been in the team, I’m played in the Grand Final.
“And there we were, nilled at Wakefield, no play-off spot... I’ll never forget that feeling, and I never want it again.” Which is why, he says, the pre-season training has been different to previous years.
“It’s always tough but this year, coming off the back of no Grand Final, the standards have shot up,” he said.
“We’re all annoyed, really, and you can see that – the competitions in training have been full-on.
“I know everyone is training hard – if you go to every Super League clubs, they’ll all be working hard.
“So we’re looking at the one per centers, the little things, the extra reps, the extra runs. The three days of training between Christmas and New Year when others aren’t working.”
If Gildart was disappointed with how last season unfolded, it was somewhat of a personal triumph for him.
He edged a duel with New South Wales Origin centre Jack Bird to win the World Club Challenge, matching a feat achieved by his dad in 1991.
His early-season form was sparkling and, though his campaign was disrupted by a back injury from a Brett Ferres ‘crusher’ tackle, he played his part in the mid-season resurgence, appeared at Wembley and did enough to claim the Super League Young Player of the Year award.
While he understands fans’ frustrations over how last season unfolded, he has been surprised to see the negativity bleed into the build-up to this campaign.
“There seems to be a lot of negativity – I shouldn’t read it, but I do, I catch myself reading negative comments,” said the amicable centre, a former St Edmund Arrowsmith pupil.
“We won the World Club last year, who does that? We got to Wembley. People forget the injury crisis we had – I’d like to see where Cas would be if they went through what we did.
“At Wigan, you’re expected to win everything and as a player, I want to win everything. But realistically it doesn’t happen, especially when you’ve so many out (injured).
“We missed Benny Flower last year, he’s our enforcer, and Morgan (Escare) was on fire at the start.
“Injuries are inevitable in our sport, but I can’t see it being to the same extent again.”
Some were surprised Gildart was overlooked by Wayne Bennett for the England squad, and he has not shied away from his ambition of representing his country.
“Definitely, I want an England shirt,” says Gildart, who turned down the chance to play for Italy in the World Cup.
“I’m still young but I’ve played a few seasons, I didn’t quite make it last year and that’s what I want.
“When you come up against anyone you want to get the better of them, but when you play an international, you want to come out of it thinking: ‘I got the better of Kallum Watkins this week’.”