Wigan Warriors ace Oliver Gildart's journey from fearing early retirement to '˜best year of life'
Oliver Gildart has described 2018 as the best year of his life.
The 22-year-old had an outstanding season for both his club and country as he helped Wigan to a fifth Grand Final victory and made a try-scoring debut for England.
Gildart also signed a new three-year deal and won the Wigan Warriors’ ‘try of the season’ award for his stunning solo effort at St Helens on August 31, when he left future Steve Prescott Man Of Steel Ben Barba in his tracks.
And Gildart – who scored 13 tries and created a further eight in the Super League this term – says 2018 has served up some unforgettable moments.
He said: “It’s been the best year of my life, rugby- wise.
“We got to the Grand Final again and managed to win that, and I obviously got to make my England debut as well, so it’s been special.
“In 2017, I broke my back, and I didn’t think I might play again. So to come-back fit from that and have a full pre-season in 2018, and then have the year what I did winning a Grand Final and playing for England... it kind of made all the bad days forgotten about and it was such a positive year for me.
“I wouldn’t change anything. We had a successful year, and on a personal level, I had a successful year so I can’t ask for much more.”
The centre singled out the Grand Final triumph over Warrington as his standout moment of the year due to the emotion that was riding on it.
Gildart told the Wigan Observer: “We won the Grand Final in 2016 – and it was the first time that I’ve ever won it and it was special but 2018 exceeded that.
“I know how hard it is to get to the final and then win it– it takes a lot of hard-work and effort to get to that point– and when we finally got there and won it, it was a massive sigh of relief.
“The Grand Final is definitely up there. Obviously, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton and Sam Tomkins left and they’re very close mates of mine, so it just made the season have a fairy-tale ending. To get out there and play for the last time with my best mates and getting that Grand Final win. It was emotional– we had a bit of a cry after the game – it’s just sad, especially with Sutty as I’ve played with him from being a young kid, and you don’t realise when it’s all coming to an end.
“I’ve realised now, and we’ve watched the games back with a few beers together and sunk it all in.
“It was an emotional day. We couldn’t have staged it any better. We spoke about it and that was the story for that season, so it was all set-up for us to do it, but it took a lot of hard-work as well. It’s the best feeling in the world!”
The 22-year-old also reflected on his England debut, saying he’s dreamed of that moment since he was a child.
He said: “Playing for Wigan is a massive dream growing up, but you always have the end goal of wanting to play for your country, and it’s a bit unbelievable really.
“Sam Burgess dropped out late and I got the call to be in the squad in the semi-final, and I was playing some good rugby at the back end of the year. So I just wanted to continue that and I didn’t want to get my chance to play for England and let myself and my family down. But I think I made them and the country proud.”
He scored a stunning solo try in the first Test win at Hull.
“The try was a childhood dream come true,” he said.
I must have dreamt that moment scoring for England a thousand times over so when it happened, it was a surreal.
“I’ve watched it back a few times now, and it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“It capped off an unbelievable year – just to get the debut which I really didn’t expect. I thought I’d just be in the squad and be behind-the-scenes and learn from the senior players and Wayne Bennett, but I managed to play all three tests and get a first series win with my first go with England.”