GARETH WALKER, the Championship correspondent of League Express, hails Bobbie Goulding’s appearance in the Championship for Barrow last Sunday.
THERE was little doubt about the story with the most sporting romance last weekend.
Barrow Raiders coach Bobbie Goulding stepped back onto a rugby league field for the first time in nine years and inspired his side to a 38-18 win over Rochdale.
At the age of 42, Goulding had a decisive hand in two Barrow tries and played an orchestrating role throughout his 55 minutes on the pitch.
Withdrawn with a slight knock shortly after half-time, he returned for the closing stages with the game in the balance at 26-18.
Within minutes he had switched the play to send Danny Jones over for the decisive try, much to delight of the vast majority of the 1,058 present at Craven Park.
The win lifted Barrow off the foot of the table, and raised hopes that the former Great Britain international can inspire the kind of successful fight against relegation he did the last time he was playing, at Rochdale in 2005.
Then, he kept the club with the smallest budget in the competition in what was then National League One.
It’s an even tougher test this time before five go down from the Kingstone Press Championship.
But Goulding is, and always has been, an inspirational figure, and if he can continue to galvanise those around him then Raiders will believe it’s possible.
He was positively buoyant at the end of the match, having rallied the home crowd from the pitch throughout.
“The general was back today!” Goulding smiled at the end of the game.
“I was gobby as usual, and I really had fun out there.
“It was really surprising that the Rochdale people were calling me an old fart and an old man, things like that – what was the score?
“I was really happy with it.”
Goulding is now expected to feature again against Doncaster this weekend and says he will continue to play as long as his body holds up.
He also believes there is plenty of improvement left in his side between now and the end of the campaign.
He added: “We’ll keep chipping away.
“The lads are improving all the time, and we’re doing basic things at training – hitting the line, catching and passing, high kicks to the wingers.
“We can play better than that – I haven’t got a doubt about that.
“Hopefully we can get on a roll and win some more matches.”
If Goulding continues to defy age – and most people’s logic – then who knows what will happen. It will certainly be fascinating to follow.
Gareth Walker’s Championship Focus column appears every Monday in Rugby League Express, available in the shops or online.