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Selfishly unselfish

Adelaide 36ers head coach Joey Wright has a personal rule: nobody beats him to the gym. It’s a rule he uses to keep himself accountable. If he’s there first, Wright figures, he’s putting in the time. To get it done, Wright usually gets to the stadium about an hour early each morning. Invariably that covers it, but for a period of time when he was coaching the Brisbane Bullets last decade it didn’t. “I would walk into the gym and hear the ball bouncing,” Wright said. One of the Bullets development players – current Melbourne United star Chris Goulding – was beating him there. “He would already be in a sweat so I had no idea how long he’d been there,” Wright explained. “I was like, ok I’ll come in an hour and a half early. Next day Chris walks in, sees me there and we work out for a while. The day after that, I get there an hour and a half early and he’s there already. In a sweat. Working.” It’s a story that captures the essence of one of the NBL’s headline acts. Chris Goulding, the self-made star. Goulding’s silky smooth skills – moves that look like they come easily to a natural-born talent – are the result of thousands of lonely hours on the hardwood. He’s the NBL’s version of Ray Allen; getting his reps while nobody’s watching. “He’s a kid that worked for it, there’s no question about it. He put the hours in,” Wright said. “His attention to detail is great … he was destined to be a star.” Goulding returns to the NBL this season as the face of a star-studded Melbourne United line-up. It’s a team made up of Olympians, champions, NBL award winners, promising youngsters and highly touted imports. Of course, with his combination of scoring, style and swag, Goulding is the undisputed franchise player. It’s been a whirlwind past few years for Goulding, culminating in a trip to Rio for the Olympic Games. Making that team was the achievement of a goal that had come to consume him. “I think about the Boomers every single day; every single training session,” Goulding said earlier this year. “But not ‘are we going to win a medal?’ I want to try and make the team. That’s the big thing for me; putting myself in a position to try and make the team.” Goulding not only made the team, he made some crucial contributions to the campaign. His game-high 22 points against Venezuela powered the Boomers to a comfortable win and his minutes against Team USA were vital to Australia staying close. It’s momentum the high-scoring guard is keen to carry into the upcoming season. “You often hear about that Olympics hangover where guys make an Olympics and their next season isn’t fantastic, so I’m determined for that not to happen,” Goulding told nbl.com.au this week. “I always want to play the best I can every single time I go out there. My work ethic or my mentality about that won’t change.” In fact, having achieved his dream of becoming an Olympian, hoisting the NBL championship trophy for Melbourne is now Goulding’s preeminent personal goal. And buoyed by his experience with the Boomers, he ain’t afraid to say it like it is. “I’ve always been one to say, ‘let’s just make playoffs and see what happens’ because I’ve never wanted to put it out there,” Goulding said. “But if the last 12 months have proved anything it’s just say it. There’s no harm in saying something and working hard for it. We found out (in Rio) that it doesn’t always work out but we gave it a hell of a crack along the way.” The roster the Melbourne front office has assembled around Goulding is certainly capable. Cedric Jackson, David Andersen, Tai Wesley, Ramone Moore, Devin Williams, Todd Blanchfield, David Barlow … the list goes on and on. “We’ve got a good mix,” Goulding said. “A good mix of old and young, athletic and ground-bound, shooters and rebounders, I think we’ve got a little bit of everything.” Chat to him long enough, and Goulding starts to sound like the well-travelled veteran that he has become. A wealth of talent can be a blessing, he explains, but can also be a curse if not handled with care. “Our biggest challenge is our depth. I mean, we really do go twelve or thirteen deep. Kind of similar to the Boomers team, everyone’s got to buy into the bigger goal,” Goulding said. “The reality of a professional basketball season and, hopefully, a championship campaign is there will be a time when your number is called. It’s just about being ready for when that is. “You could have six or seven DNPs in a row and then, boom, Dave Andersen is sore, we need to rest him and you’ve got to be ready for that time.” Goulding recalls a meeting during Brisbane’s 2007 championship run where Coach Wright and the Bullets veterans delivered a basketball lesson. It was the kind of straight talk that separates great teams from the good. “They talked about how you don’t want to be selfish but it’s hard to not think about the selfish things,” Goulding recalled. “People start thinking ‘I want to get more money so I have to do this or that’. Sometimes you’ve got to be selfishly unselfish. Selfishly unselfish? Goulding explains. “You might not be getting 10 or 12 points a game, you might be getting 5 or 6 a game, but if we win the thing everybody’s stock goes up,” he said. “The guys on that team, they got rewarded for being part of a championship. Everyone bought in and all of sudden guys are signing two or three year deals because they’re a ‘championship back-up guard’ as opposed to just a ‘back-up guard’. It’s a big tick to have on your belt.” Goulding knows that demonstrating that mentality was part of what got him to Rio in the first place. He was a low-maintenance piece of the Boomers puzzle; a guy who was ready to play his role but was ultimately there for the team. Who knows, maybe that example will help one or two of his talented teammates ‘buy in’ this season. “We’ve got guys who have really solid resumes who won’t be playing the minutes they’re used to and I’ll probably be one of those guys as well,” Goulding said. “It’s a good problem to have and if we can get the balance right then we should have a really successful season.” Still arriving early. Still putting in the work. Chris Goulding is every bit the superstar Joey Wright thought he’d become. And now, he’s focused on leading his team to the NBL Promised Land.    
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