Oliver Gildart hopes to become a better player after being handed a ‘starting’ squad number.
The 20-year-old centre, who made his debut at the tail end of the 2015 campaign, wore the number 20 jumper last term on his way to scoring 12 tries from 28 appearances.
It will be good to play with Budgie, I’ve not played with him for a year or so, so it’s good to have him backOliver Gildart
Gildart’s reward has been the chance to fill the No. 4 shirt vacated by Dan Sarginson, and although coach Shaun Wane says squad numbers are not an indication of pecking order, they are seen as an early indicator to his preferred starting side.
Having come through the academy ranks to emulate his dad, Ian, Gildart’s reaction to securing his new shirt is also an indication of how the players see squad numbers.
“I’m buzzing with that,” he said. “I didn’t have a clue at all, I was in the gym in the off-season when a mate sent me a text to congratulate me. I was over the moon.”
Gildart has impressed fans since bursting onto the scene with a try-scoring debut against Warrington in 2015, and repeated the feat in last season’s Grand Final.
But that didn’t make the rising star feel confident enough to assume his place in the side was nailed down, and he admits he thought Wane may have had other ideas for Sarginson’s replacement.
“(When Sarginson left), Waney may have had the thought in his head (whether to sign someone), but he’s stuck by me and he’s stuck by me for the last two years,” said Gildart. “He’s put me in, when other coaches may not have done.”
He now wants to repay Wane for the faith the coach has shown in him, by adding some bulk and improving on his impressive start, in a campaign which will see him pair up with Joe Burgess in a new-look back line.
“I want to put a couple KGs on and try and improve. It will be good to play with Budgie, I’ve not played with him for a year or so, so it’s good to have him back,” he said.