Written by Callum Walker
“Past it”, “injury prone”, “gone”; those were some of the words and statements that described Luke Gale when he made the move to Leeds at the end of 2019 following two devastating injuries. Those injuries had left the halfback out of the Castleford side for almost two seasons as the club struggled to replace him.
Eventually, the Tigers found a replacement in St Helens scrum-half Danny Richardson. A 23-year-old organizer, it was said to be the ideal fit alongside other rookie half Jake Trueman. Yet, whilst Castleford slide closer to the bottom of Super League, Leeds look destined for a top-four spot.
And, as the Tigers slipped out of the sixth round of the Challenge Cup, the Rhinos have made it all the way to Wembley having thrashed Wigan 26-12 in last weekend’s semi-final. Incidentally, that is the first Challenge Cup Final Leeds have reached since 2015. A five-year hiatus ended with, effectively, the boot of Luke Gale.
Castleford fans remember vividly the Grand Final of 2017 when the Tigers were cut down by a Leeds side that played the rain so brilliantly on a misery-filled evening. That game, perhaps unfairly, gave Gale the unwanted jests of being unable to do it in a ‘big game’.
Well, Saturday’s semi-final against Wigan was the moment that the halfback firmly demonstrated he had learned from that night three years ago. Gale kicked Wigan to death with a masterful 40/20 early on setting the platform for the onslaught that was about to happen.
— The Coral Challenge Cup (@TheChallengeCup) October 3, 2020
It was a man-of-the-match performance saved for one of the biggest occasions with the 32-year-old getting to Wembley for the first time in his career. The look on Gale’s face after the game said it all; there was pressure on him to deliver and he blew it out of the water. There really would not have been any better feeling.
Salford are going to be very tough opponents – their win over Warrington proved just that – but the way in which Gale and company tore to shreds a Wigan side that is above them in the table was impressive to say the least.
The halfback will need to be on the top of his game once more, but he has already demonstrated that he is far from ‘past it’. In fact, Gale delivered one of the most perfect performances a number seven could play. That in itself bodes well for the final.