FOR most rugby league players ending up on their backside is a negative but, in Luke Gale’s case, it is a sign of Castleford Tigers’ continuing success.
The gifted scrum-half will look to plot another win for his side this evening when they host Widnes Vikings looking for the victory which will further strengthen their push for Super League’s top-four.
No player in the competition has more than the Yorkshireman’s 25 try assists so far this season; Gale’s closest challenger is Warrington’s wonderful Chris Sandow who has only 18 thus far.
It is, therefore, no surprise there was such elation last week when Castleford announced they had tied down their talisman on a new five-year deal.
He believes that he is probably in the best form of his career, which is saying something as he made Super League’s Dream Team last term and earned a call-up to England’s squad for the New Zealand Test series.
Gale said: “I’ve not scored as many as normal – I think I’ve only got two – but people are targeting me a lot more this year. I have found that.
“Every week I seem to get knocked on my backside after a pass or kick and, as a key player, opponents do tend to look out for me more.
“But it doesn’t bother me; if targeting me means holes open up for others then I don’t mind not scoring tries.
“I’m creating scores for my team-mates instead.
“I do think this is probably my best form, but I’m playing around a lot of good players.
“I’ve Denny (Solomona) out wide who’s scored 22 tries, Jake Webster who has filled in magnificently for Michael Shenton at centre and seems to score two tries every game.
“Luke Dorn’s back in at full-back and so I do have a lot of great players there to work with.”
Castleford’s coach Daryl Powell believes the 27-year-old, who he brought in from Bradford Bulls ahead of last season, will be England’s No7 in the Four Nations and, so, finally earn his first cap come October.
He was in the 23-man squad last autumn but unused by Steve McNamara. Has the incoming England coach, the revered Australian Wayne Bennett, been in contact yet?
“We’ve got a meeting on June 13 in Leeds for a bit of a squad get-together,” revealed Gale, whose kicking, passing and running attributes combine to create the sort of dynamic half-back England have been crying out for in recent years.
“I got an email recently saying that and that will be the first time I’ve met him.
“I’ve got to get in the squad first and, hopefully, then I will get to pull on the jersey this time. If I keep playing consistently well at club level and Wayne Bennett is watching then, when the top-eight breaks off, that’s when I think you’ve really got to step up and put your hand up.
“There’s been some good half-backs again and competition is fierce but I’m sure Wayne Bennett wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Castleford have won four of their previous five games in all competitions, the last of which being Friday’s 30-22 success at Huddersfield when Gale contributed one of those two tries and five goals.
Another victory would see them replace St Helens in fifth, although defeat would see Widnes close to within just a point of them in sixth.
Their visitors, though, have won just one of their last nine league outings and, if Castleford are serious about breaking the traditional top-four stranglehold of Super League, this is the sort of game they have to navigate successfully.
“Kevin Brown is a great player and Rhys Hanbury out the back is a massive threat; Widnes are a good side,” he maintained.
“But we’re just starting to hit our straps and we’re definitely looking forward rather than at what’s behind us.
“Hopefully we’ll keep knocking the two points off. We’ve just come into a bit of form and now we’re looking to go the right way up the ladder.”
Gale, meanwhile, has been captain of the West Yorkshire club since Shenton was injured on the opening day but he insists that extra responsibility is not another reason behind his spellbinding form.
“A lot of people ask me that but I’ve not thought about it,” added the Leeds Rhinos academy product.
“I’ve always been a leader and am probably one of the loudest on the field anyway.
“I don’t do any Winston Churchill type speeches or anything; I just go about my business and I’m talking all the time anyway.
“We’ve missed Shenny on and off the field as he is a natural-born leader but I’ve not really thought about being captain.”