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Super League 2020: How Leeds Rhinos’ Luke Gale was made in Doncaster | Rugby League News

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Last Updated: 31/01/20 4:19pm

Luke Gale got to grips with what professional rugby league is all about during a season at Doncaster

Luke Gale got to grips with what professional rugby league is all about during a season at Doncaster

When Luke Gale agreed to join Leeds Rhinos for the 2020 Super League season, it meant a return to the place where he was educated in the finer points of rugby league between the ages of 12 and 19.

But it was at the finishing school of National League Two – now League One – with Doncaster which set him on the way to becoming one of the top English half-backs of the past decade.

Having spent eight games on loan at the Keepmoat Stadium along with then-Rhinos team-mate Luke Burgess in 2007, Gale returned for a full campaign the following season and would play a starring role as the team coached by Ellery Hanley achieved promotion to National League One.

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New Leeds signing Luke Gale says he’s excited about facing James Maloney having watched him in State of Origin clashes over the years

New Leeds signing Luke Gale says he’s excited about facing James Maloney having watched him in State of Origin clashes over the years

However, it was by no means an easy ride for the teenage Gale, who was forced to grow up quickly when faced with some battle-hardened professionals.

“It was tough and I can remember coming off the pitch a fair few times thinking they were some aggressive, aggressive men,” Gale told Sky Sports.

“You’re a young man, so you have to learn pretty quickly because it was a very tough competition, but Doncaster had a lot of success.

“The grounding I got there was first-class and I ended up scoring something like 45 tries that season. God knows how I scored that many because I’ve not been that prolific throughout my career and it’s mainly assists I go for.

“It was tough and I can remember coming off the pitch a fair few times thinking they were some aggressive, aggressive men. You’re a young man, so you have to learn pretty quickly.”

Luke Gale

“But off the back of that, Harlequins RL came in for me and gave me the chance to go back to Super League.”

Gale’s displays in helping Doncaster win promotion via the play-offs and reach the final of the Northern Rail Cup, where they were overwhelmed 60-0 by eventual National League One champions Salford City Reds, saw him honoured as the division’s young player of the year for 2008.

His transition to life at the club was helped by the fact that at the time the chairman was Craig Harrison, who still serves as Gale’s agent to this day and has become close friend during his playing career as well.

Having your boss as your agent is an unusual situation for a player, but Gale has plenty of fond memories from that time – not least the aftermath of the 18-10 win over Oldham in the 2008 play-off final.

Luke Gale is back at Leeds, where he played in the youth system

Luke Gale is back at Leeds, where he played in the youth system

“We got promoted to National League One and he owned a big property at the time with a big pool,” Gale said.

“The coach went straight back to his massive mansion and we all jumped in the pool fully clothed!

“We’ve been good friends ever since and we’ve had a 12-year relationship. He’s actually the godfather of my child and that was the start of a flourishing relationship.”

That season proved the launch-pad for a career which saw Gale impress for Harlequins RL and Bradford Bulls before being snapped up by Castleford Tigers for the 2015 campaign.

Luke Gale's drop goal against St Helens sent Castleford to the 2017 Grand Final

Luke Gale’s drop goal against St Helens sent Castleford to the 2017 Grand Final

It was at the Tigers where he won England recognition, not to mention being named Man of Steel after being a key component of the side which won the 2017 League Leaders’ Shield and reached the Super League Grand Final – Gale kicking the drop goal which sent them to Old Trafford in the dramatic semi-final win over St Helens.

The past two years have, however, been ones of frustration for the 31-year-old as injury restricted him to just 15 appearances for Castleford in 2018 and forced him to miss the entire 2019 season.

He has already made his playing return in Leeds’ pre-season games and is set for his first competitive outing when the Rhinos host Hull FC in the second match of the double-header at Headingley on Sunday.

“It’s been a massively frustrating 18 months, but the adversity you face in your career stands you in good stead,” Gale said.

“I remember in 2017 when everything is going well and everyone is giving you a pat on the back, it’s easy and life is great then.

“Everyone is telling you how good you are and you’re in the headlines every week, but you learn a lot more about yourself when times are tough and that’s stood me in good stead during the past 18 months.”

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