COACH OF the year Daryl Powell’s influence persuaded half-back Luke Gale to join Castleford Tigers.
Gale had other options when he decided to leave Bradford Bulls, but admitted the opportunity to play under Powell was too good to turn down.
“I was speaking to a few clubs and I had a word with Daryl Powell,” said the England Knights star, who is now into his second week of pre-season training at his new club.
“We sat and had a chat and that was it. After that chat my mind was made up, I knew I wanted to play under him for this team.
“He said the boys are great and the coaching staff are great and that was it, it was the chat with Daryl that swung it.”
Since Powell took over mid-way through 2013 Tigers have gone from also-rans to a top-four club who are now genuine contenders for silverware.
Gale said: “They were in the Challenge Cup final this year and we want to do the same again next season and take it even further.
“I have spoken to Daryl about it and he wants someone who can get the team around the pitch and be a general.
“That suits me perfectly, it is the kind of half-back I am. Daryl brings players on and gets the best out of them. He has got Ryan Sheridan and Danny Orr on the coaching staff, along with Coops (Mike Cooper) the conditioner and it it a good training environment.
“Everyone is striving to get in the team and to get better. In a work environment that’s brilliant and I am looking forward to being part of it.”
Gale began his career in Leeds Rhinos’ academy set-up before spells at Doncaster, Harlequins and Bradford.
“I was at Bradford three years and I was sad to leave,” he conceded.
“It was sad two ways, they got relegated and me leaving – it was a double hit.
“I had the option to move a couple of times, but I never thought the time was right or that I wanted to leave, until I spoke to Cas and Daryl. I’ve been in (pre-season training) a week and I am loving it.
“It has been good to meet the boys, they have been brilliant and I am really enjoying it.”
This is the toughest part of the year for players, with Tigers’ opening pre-season game – at Featherstone Rovers on December 28 – still more than a month away.
Gale knows hard work done now will pay off further down the line, but he is relishing getting on to the field and showing the fans what he can do when the serious business starts next February.
“It’s a tough time at the moment,” he said. “It is hard, but it is a good time to get to know the players. When you go to a new club it’s a different way of playing and there’s different calls, but I can’t wait to pull a shirt on and get out there and show the fans what I can do.
“It is an exciting challenge.”
One date already ringed on the fixture list is the visit of Leeds Rhinos on Friday, April 3.
Despite being born in Leeds, Gale has been on the books of Rhinos’ two fiercest rivals.
“That’s just the way it goes,” he said. “I think I will get a bit of stick off a few of my friends, because I am a Leeds lad and I still live there.”
Meanwhile, Tigers will play host to Bradford Bulls in a testimonial game for prop Andy Lynch on Sunday, January 11 (2.30pm).
Lynch said: “Cas Tigers and Bradford Bulls have played such a massive part in my career and I have had some amazing times playing for both teams.
“Last year was massive for me and I’m really enjoying my rugby and can’t wait to get back out on the field in what will be the first game back at the Jungle following our off-season break.”
Powell said: ”Andy Lynch has not only been an outstanding servant as a player to both Castleford and Bradford, but to rugby league in general.
“This game gives both clubs and their fans an opportunity to pay tribute to Andy. It also gives us ideal preparation leading into the new season against a team who finished last season outstandingly well under Jimmy Lowes and who have been in pre-season for a very long time.
“It promises to be a great game for Andy and for our preparation for 2015.”