DARRELL Goulding admits he’s determined to make up for lost time heading into tomorrow’s Challenge Cup semi-final with Leeds.
The in-form Wigan centre missed out on selection for last year’s Wembley final between the two sides, then-coach Michael Maguire choosing a right-wing axis of Joel Tomkins and Josh Charnley.
Having been given a fresh start this year under Shaun Wane, Goulding has been back to his best this term as Wigan close in on a domestic double.
And he admits the agony of missing out last year will give him all the motivation he needs heading into the do-or-die showdown with the reigning world champions.
Goulding said: “Me and Gaz Hock were 18th and 19th man that day, so we got part of the atmosphere and saw how much it meant to all the players.
“We did get a medal, but it doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t played in it.
“Madge told me early in the week I wouldn’t be playing, but to be honest I was expecting it.
“I’d been struggling with my knee all year and not played, so it was no surprise really. It’s one of those things.
“There was probably a moment in the changing rooms before the game when it hit home that wasn’t playing, but once I saw all my mates who I’ve grown up with enjoy that success it was forgotten about really.”
Goulding has been one of the major beneficiaries of Wane taking over the reins from Maguire – not to mention Tomkins’ defection to rugby union.
And the former St Pat’s junior admits Wigan’s move towards a more open style of rugby suits him down to the ground.
“I think Madge was probably a bit more disciplined and structured in some ways,” he recognised.
“Waney’s more in favour of if we see something on, whether it’s the last tackle or not, and we want to run with it just to run with it.
“He’s the sort of bloke to give us the benefit if we see something then he’s happy enough to let us go for it.
“Like if he wants to take a kick at goal, but we’re happy enough to run the ball, then he’s not going to blame anybody because if we back ourselves as a team then he’s happy enough to back us.”
And after a spell on the wing under Maguire, Goulding is enjoying life back in the centres.
“It’s helped going back into the centre, it’s the position I’m most comfortable playing in, and it’s probably the best I’ve played,” he added.
Goulding’s fine form was illustrated during last weekend’s victory at Wakefield, when he slipped a magnificent ball out for Iain Thornley to score in the corner.
“I don’t practise them,” he admitted. “They happen in training but I don’t do any special practise for that.
“It’s just how I’ve always played when I’ve played in the centre from being young.
“In the past I’ve probably not got as much in the centre, but we’re known for being an attacking team for than ever this year.”
A repeat of the last meeting between Wigan and Leeds – the Warriors triumphed 50-8 at Headingley last month – would be nice, but Goulding says the Rhinos won’t be underestimated.
“Leeds are one of the clubs we always seem to have good games against, it doesn’t matter form wise where we are or where they are it always seems to be our best games,” he added.
“It’ll be different this week going to a different ground, but it will be a challenge because for a while it’s always been Leeds who have been the dominant ones.
“Hopefully it’ll be nice to go back over there and show them that the dominance is coming back over to Lancashire for a change.
“I don’t know why it’s happened but there’s always been that sort of rivalry. Maybe it’s been because of a couple of important games which has brought the rivalry up a bit.
“We’re under no illusions, we know this is our toughest game this year and the lads have a real enthusiasm for the game this week.”
Squad: Tomkins, Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Finch, Prescott, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, O’Loughlin, Lima, Farrell, Tuson, Lauaki, Flower, Gelling, Hughes, Crosby.