Following an injury sustained early in their 24-4 victory over local rivals Wakefield, Castleford half back Luke Gale is set to spend the next three months on the sidelines as he recovers from a fractured patella.
It is believed that the injury occurred early on during the victory after a collision with Trinity’s Australian behemoth Pauli Pauli but, with it being his left knee, it didn’t stop him kicking three early penalties to put his team 6-0 up after twenty minutes. However, when the game’s first try was scored by Tigers’ winger Greg Minikin, Jamie Ellis stepped up to the goalkicking duties as the 2017 Man of Steel winner was off the field getting treatment.
He did return to action thereafter but, when the teams left the sheds for the second half, Gale was nowhere to be seen and the Tigers have now confirmed he faces a lay off. However, assistant coach Ryan Sheridan is hopeful that is a worst case scenario and that the actual amount of time the England star spends out of action is less than feared. “It’s looking like something like three months but we’ve got a good physio in Matt Crowther, and Galey will be meticulous in his rehab and getting himself right as he’ll want to be back as soon as possible. Fingers crossed it’s sooner, rather than later,” he admitted.
What is clear is that Gale is going to miss Super League’s Magic Weekend in two weekend’s time and is almost certain to miss the England international in Denver against New Zealand. The Tigers will be hoping that the likes of Paul McShane, Jake Trueman and Ben Roberts can help Jamie Ellis direct operations from half-back but it can’t be questioned that they will miss Gale.
This season has seen the Tigers arguably struggle to match their 2017 performances and Friday’s victory indicated a slightly different approach. While last season the chances are Castleford would have ran the early penalties they were awarded with the intention of scoring one of their trademark expansive tries. However, that doesn’t seem to have been the case on many occasions yet this year. Perhaps teams have worked out, to some extent, how to stop the Tigers or they may be missing one of their key players from last season in the shape of Zak Hardaker, a man who offered so much to their free-flowing attacking play. It is unlikely that Daryl Powell and his staff have instructed the team to play in a less attractive way and putting points on the board via penalties can’t really be argued with – after all, Castleford sit fourth on sixteen points with games in hand on every team in Super League.
However, it will be very interesting to see where the Tigers sit in the top tier standings when Gale returns; with Super League teams having between ten and twelve matches left before the mid-season split, this is a key part of the season and is potentially one of the worst times to lose a key player – this year especially. As it stands, six teams in Super League will fancy their chances of reaching the end of season play offs and there will be two very good clubs missing out on the top four; misfortune and luck may well play a big part in that final shake up and Castleford will be hoping that the absence of their talisman doesn’t scupper their campaign.