Written by Callum Walker
Luke Gale began his career as a Leeds Rhinos academy graduate, but, with Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire in front of him in the pecking order, he failed to register a first-team appearance.
Instead, Gale went in search of regular rugby, joining Doncaster RLFC in 2007. The halfback was instrumental for the South Yorkshire side, winning the National League Two Young Player of the Year award in 2008, in which he became the club’s record points scorer in a season.
In just 43 games, the mercurial halfback scored 33 tries, kicking 74 goals and six drop-goals. Gale’s form at Doncaster attracted interest from Super League clubs and he moved to London’s rebranded club Harlequins RL at the end of that year.
A steady figure for Harlequins, the Leeds-born man played 72 games for the capital club, scoring 19 tries and kicking 93 goals and two drop-goals. Yet, his home was in the north of England and, after three seasons, relocated to Bradford to join the Bulls in their quest to stay in the top flight at the end of 2011.
His impact at Bradford was immediately obvious; in his first season, Gale scored 143 points and was rewarded with a new three-year deal. Bradford, however, were on a rapid decline and by 2014 financial problems ended with the club’s relegation from Super League and with it, Gale’s exit. At Bradford, the feisty number 7 scored 19 tries and kicked 119 goals and five drop-goals in 64 appearances.
Surprisingly, Gale’s next club was Castleford Tigers, a side that had been revolutionised by Daryl Powell since his arrival midway through 2013. After being one win away from the League Leaders’ Shield and having visited Wembley for the Challenge Cup Final in 2014, Powell’s move for Gale – a halfback that had been a part of two struggling top-flight sides – shocked many Tigers fans.
Yet, it was a match made in heaven; Gale proved to be a revelation for Castleford, scoring 33 tries and kicking a remarkable 415 goals and 16 drop-goals in just 104 games. He won the Albert Goldthorpe Medal in his first season and then again in 2016.
Plus, in 2016, the halfback added another string to his bow, captaining the Tigers for the majority of the season following Michael Shenton’s injury in the first game of that year, topping the league for the most try assists.
But Gale, like the most of the Castleford team, had his best season in 2017. Over the course of the season, Luke smashed the 15-year long record that Wayne Bartrim had held for the most goals kicked in a Castleford season and even ended the 33-year reign of Bob Beardmore’s overall points tally in a season.
If those records weren’t enough and already being a two-time winner of the Albert Goldthorpe Medal, Luke again made history in 2017 by becoming the first player to win the award three years in a row. And, if one hasn’t quite yet grasped the consistency of Gale and his importance for the Tigers following his move, a third successive Super League Dream Team appearance also came Gale’s way in 2017.
To add yet another accolade to his already impressive collection, Luke also received the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association Player of the Year. And, in true clean sweep style, Gale won the Steve Prescott Man of Steel for the way in which he had steered Castleford to their first-ever Super League Grand Final and top-of-the-table finish.
As a result of his inspired form for the Tigers, Gale was called up to the England squad in 2016 and has made nine appearances for his country, scoring one try and kicking five goals. The halfback had also previously played two games for England Knights.
Though 2018 and 2019 were seasons to forget for Gale – he spent most of both seasons on the sideline with a fractured patella and a ruptured Achilles tendon respectively – a move to neighbours and boyhood club Leeds has seemed to revitalise his career.