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Ponder this question for a moment, ?What does it take to make a great scrum-half??. Imagination? Flair? Great hands? Eye for a gap? Flawless kicking game? Ability to marshal his troops round the field? A game breaker? Courage?
There was a young man from Widnes who had all that. Where is he now? He is now in British Rugby League?s Hall of Infamy as one of the most notorious bad boys of recent years. With no club wanting to touch him with a 20 foot bargepole, Bobbie Goulding has took up coaching his son?s rugby team and has retired from the game after appearing for no less than 8 British professional clubs.
The straw which broke the camel?s back was allegedly a result of Goulding taking exception to the treatment of his team-mate. Salford City Reds didn?t agree with the club captain?s version of events and he was promptly sacked for breaking Graham Holroyd?s nose in the training ground scrap. The last time rugby league fans would see him gracing the greatest game was for Leigh (who he joined after his sacking from Salford) in the NL1 Grand Final. Since then, Goulding has disappeared off the face of the earth?well the face of the footy field.
It?s such a sad story for a career that held so much promise. Despite a career that was looking on the rocks early on after ill discipline, temper problems and fall outs with coaches led to his departure from Wigan and Leeds, Bobbie worked hard to resurrect his career at Widnes.
After 2 years at Naughton Park, young Bobbie was moving on again. This time though, it wasn?t due to his antics and ill behaviour but Widnes? financial mess. The move brought him a few miles down the road to Merseyside allies St.Helens in the summer of 1994.
It was at St.Helens were Bobbie played the best footy of his life as he made the most of St.Helens? successful transition to summer rugby league with the Super League Fan?s Guide of 1996 describing him as ?the compete player ? top scrum-half, master tactician, inspirational captain and superb goal-kicker.?
His exploits in the ?Ultimate Comeback? Challenge Cup Final saw him go from fans favourite to hero and toast of the town as his 3 well executed bombs handed Saints 3 tries in 7 minutes to put them in the history books for overturning the biggest margin in Cup Final history. Bobbie was idolised by all in the Merseyside town with kids copying his ?skinhead with a fringe? hairstyle as Saints finally emerged from the shadows of their huge rivals Wigan.
Everything was going well for Bobbie. By 1998 he had steered St.Helens to the inaugural SL title and successive Challenge Cup final victories. However, things started to go horribly wrong as the slippery slope started. Rumours of excessive drinking, several hotel room trashings, rifts with players and staff, racial bust-ups with speedsters Alan Hunte and Anthony Sullivan and the terrible tragedy of one of his kids being born with a hole in her heart saw Bobbie go off the rails a bit. His days at St.Helens were coming to an end as the youngest ever Lions tourist was released on a free to Huddersfield.
Bobbie failed to make an impact and moved on to Yorkshire rivals Wakefield where his stint was short and far from sweet with Bobbie not playing very well and Wakey unable to pay their players.
Goulding managed to show glimpses of his incredible talent at Salford but was forced out the club, many believe unfairly, and moved on to Leigh were he didn?t really do enough to earn a contract with a club or find a new club for the 2003 season. British Rugby League?s bad boy faded out the game.
Unfortunately, he won?t just be remembered for his talent and ability but incidents such as ending up in court for loutish behaviour and public exhibitions of arrogance and violence.
You can add temperament, level headedness and a will to succeed no matter what to that list earlier in the article. Traits that are sadly and crucially missing in Goulding?s personality and contributed to the many downfalls of the immensely talented no.7?s career. As Bobbie leaves the limelight and settles down to life after footy, you wonder if there?s a comeback in him.....what a half-back partnership him and Widnes? Jules O?Neill would make!
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