If you asked Chris Goulding how his body was feeling this season he would answer with one or two words.
“Fine”. “Fantastic”. “Brilliant” etc.
But when you looked the Melbourne United star in the eyes they said something completely different.
It was clear Goulding was hurting, we saw as much when he went down at various times during late season games, against New Zealand in United’s penultimate game he landed awkwardly, held his ankle then grit his teeth and kept on running.
Plenty of NBL players, plenty of professional athletes, play through pain and injuries and Goulding is from the school where you never use it as an excuse.
But after playing through his ankle problems since the lead up to last year’s Olympics and surviving through the Boomers’ campaign in Rio and 22 of 28 NBL games this season, Goulding admitted he would be seeking medical advice and a surgical consultation now his season is over.
“First things first I need to see some doctors and people about how to best get my body up to scratch so I’ll do that in the next couple of days,” Goulding said after scoring 21 points in Melbourne’s season-ending 96-94 loss to Perth.
“At this stage my main focus is to get my ankle right and make sure I’m ready to go for the first game next year [season].
“I don’t think I’m heading off anywhere but it all depends on [medical advice] – then I’ll form my best plan of attack once I get some expert advice.”
With the Olympics in sight and a Boomers’ spot on the line, Goulding continued playing after last NBL season finishing the Italian season with Torino before returning for the Boomers’ preparations.
Goulding will now have a long overdue rest and recuperation period although he admits you never know what opportunities could arise before preseason preparations begin for Melbourne United.
He will also continue to work closely with Melbourne United’s medical team who worked around the clock with him to get his ankle through the Boomers’ final selection camp last year.
“There will be rest involved, whether it’s prolonged I’m not sure but a surgeon will be one of the people we will speak to along with some guys at the club who know exactly what they are doing,” Goulding said.
“I’ve put my faith and my trust in them all year and it’s allowed me to play 20 odd games – we have good people around and they will make the right decision for me.”
Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos praised Goulding’s toughness throughout the season.
“I appreciate this guy for playing beat up all year – not everybody will do it,” Demopoulos said.
“It shows a lot about his character and why he is the face of the franchise, it’s much appreciated and he fought through a lot this year and did it with a lot of class and never made excuses.”
In the last two seasons with Melbourne, Goulding has meshed well with an import point guard firstly Stephen Holt then Casper Ware.
The Goulding/Ware backcourt was untouchable at its best but at times left with too much playmaking to do.
Melbourne keen to bring Ware back and Goulding would love the chance to have a full season alongside the high scoring former NBA point guard who placed fifth in MVP voting despite being signed midseason.
“Casper is fantastic,” Goulding said.
“You only have to look into the crowd to see what an impact the players we had on this team had on fans.
“Casper is a fantastic player and he’s probably going to challenge for the MVP despite having missed so many games, you could only imagine what he would do with a full season here.”
Above all Melbourne’s early exit will fuel Goulding and his teammates for next season.
“I love this city, I love this club. Melbourne is my home so there is a reason I signed for two years,” Goulding said.
“So I’ll be back. Hopefully we will go a little bit further. There are six other teams in this league who are going to feel exactly like we are in the space of the next two or three or four weeks.
“It’s a part of this game but obviously we would like to be the one at the end but this year it wasn’t our turn.”