On Saturday, Goulding, 31, will become the 102nd NBL player to reach 300 games when he runs out at Melbourne Arena as captain of Melbourne United against Wright’s Adelaide 36ers.
“My first day I shot some shots with CJ in the morning. Sam was there, Bradtke was there; all Australian greats and the list goes on,” Goulding recalled on Wednesday.
“I was so lucky to be thrown into that environment and learn from guys like that at 17, 18 years of age.”
Wright saw something in the way Goulding could light up as a shooter and knew the brash youngster could become something special.
Good training form led to a development spot and some games for the Bullets in 2006.
“I reckon Joey probably got called crazy a few times after he invited me to training but he stuck his neck out for me and I’m thankful,” Goulding said.
“So it’s cool that on Saturday I’ll be playing against his team for my 300th.”
While he often comes across as cocky, Goulding has always had respect for those who came before him, even as he started matching the achievements of those he looked up to.
The 300-game milestone in the NBL isn’t as rare as the AFL or NRL, but it does move a player into some special company, including the likes of Bruton, Bradtke and Mackinnon.
Goulding feels fit and motivated so he doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon, especially as shooters can usually hold a roster spot even as they slow down.
Tony Ronaldson is the NBL’s games record holder with 665 games ahead of Andrew Gaze on 612. Among active players, Mika Vukona’s 460 games and Adam Gibson’s 424 lead the way.
While Melbourne United will bring Goulding’s parents to Saturday’s game along with his wife Molly and some good friends, who will be courtside, the player himself is trying not to get too preoccupied as this game could prove a pivotal one.
Melbourne (7-6 on the season) and Adelaide (6-6) are in fourth and fifth place on the ladder.
United won six straight games before losses to Cairns and Sydney last round, and perhaps Goulding was channelling some of his early mentors when he said the team needed the reality check.
“When you get on a run of six wins you think ‘this is great, we are really good,’ but it only takes a weekend or a team to bring you back down to earth,” Goulding said.
“It was probably a positive that we can have a little reset.
“We are in the process of doing that, the proof will be in the pudding on Saturday.”
Melbourne United play the Adelaide 36ers at Melbourne Arena on Saturday at 5.30pm.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.