By his own admission, Luke Gale was nowhere near the standards he has set for himself during his career in Leeds Rhinos’ season-opening win over Wakefield Trinity.
The captain was on hand to provide an assist for Richie Myler, but it was also his cross-field kick which was picked off by Trinity’s Tom Johnstone for the winger to race over 80 metres and level things up early in the second half before Leeds eventually triumphed 28-22.
Gale came into the game on the back of a pre-season which was disrupted by a torn pectoral muscle and with his former side Castleford Tigers up next for the Rhinos on Good Friday, live on Sky Sports, the England international is aiming to quickly make up for lost time.
Leeds Rhinos vs Castleford Tigers
April 2, 2021, 2:45pm
“I had some nice touches, but I lacked match sharpness and you could tell that,” Gale said.
“There were a few brain explosions, which didn’t help – teeing anyone up on the pitch but Tom Johnstone was one of them and that was a big momentum swing.
“I need to sharpen up, definitely, and I haven’t got much time to get sharp. We’ve got Castleford on Friday, that’s one of them you look forward to and you see in the calendar early on.”
Castleford kicked off the new campaign with a victory too, overcoming Warrington Wolves 21-12 last Sunday, and Gale was impressed by what he saw of the Tigers.
Up-and-coming half-back Jake Trueman was one who particularly caught the eye of the former Cas No 7 as the 22-year-old set up two of his side’s tries, carried for 105 metres with two tackle busts and put in five attacking kicks.
Trueman has come to the fore at Castleford since moving to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle from Bradford Bulls for 2017, although he and Gale would only make a handful of appearances in the same team before the latter moved to the Rhinos ahead of the 2020 season.
Gale’s switch to Headingley brought him back to the club he was with as a teenager but did not make a first-team appearance for and his first year saw Leeds lift the Challenge Cup, with the half-back kicking the game-clinching drop goal in the 17-16 win over Salford Red Devils at Wembley.
The 32-year-old looks back fondly on his time with Castleford, which included reaching the Super League Grand Final for the first time in the club’s history in 2017 via another memorable drop goal, but found the opportunity awaiting him with the Rhinos too good to turn down.
I need to sharpen up, definitely, and I haven’t got much time to get sharp. We’ve got Castleford on Friday, that’s one of them you look forward to and you see in the calendar early on.
“I always wanted to be a Leeds player and come back because I felt I had unfinished business, but I had five great years at Castleford,” Gale said.
“I felt like my time had kind of come to an end there and I wanted to move on and wanted a new challenge.
“The way it fell at Leeds was perfect and I’m in a role I absolutely love, and I feel like I’ve come home to Leeds Rhinos.”
While Gale was able to recover from his injury in time to feature in Leeds’ opening game of the season, several of his team-mates were not so lucky.
Rob Lui, Ash Handley, Callum McLelland, Harry Newman, Konrad Hurrell and Tom Holroyd are all at various stages on their respective roads to recovery, while Jack Walker is expected to be out for the season.
Kyle Eastmond is not yet ready to feature either after returning to Super League from rugby union, but the good news for head coach Richard Agar is Gale has suffered no ill-effects on the back of his return to action and is aiming to get back up to speed as quickly as possible.
“We just kind of rehabbed it as if we were always going to play in Round 1,” Gale said of his race to be fit for the season-opener. “Everything felt good, I ticked off the boxes I needed to, and we got there.
“I suppose I didn’t have any other option because we haven’t got much choice at the minute, especially in the half-back department but in the backs in general.
“Everything felt good. It’s more the interruption of pre-season and I’ve probably only had a one or two-week pre-season, which isn’t ideal.
“I’ll start using the weeks building up now and use them as I would have done for Round 1.”
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