Leeds Rhinos captain Luke Gale confident of returning for Super League derby against Wakefield Trinity
Captain Luke Gale expects to be fully fit and sharp when he makes his Leeds Rhinos comeback in two weeks' time.
Gale has not played since breaking a thumb during Rhinos’ Betfred Super League loss to Castleford Tigers on April 2.
He is unavailable for Sunday's visit to Huddersfield Giants, his fourth game on the sidelines and Leeds are without a fixture next weekend.
Gale confirmed, if everything goes to plan, he will return against Wakefield Trinity at Emerald Headingley on Friday, May 14.
The half-back missed most of pre-season after tearing a pectoral muscle injury in his first weights session, in January.
He admitted that affected his form in the first three games of the campaign, but insisted he has been making the most of his unwanted time off.
“It has been good really, I feel sharp and it has been like a mini pre-season,” Gale said.
“I’ve got some really good training sessions in, which I missed from the pec’ injury.
“It is tough as well, though - obviously the team are doing it tough and we’re going through a few defeats now.
“I just want to jump in, knowing I can guide them around and not being able to do so is hard.”
Gale is among at least 10 senior players unavailable for tomorrow’s game at John Smith’s Stadium, but tipped Rhinos to bounce back from last week’s horror show against Hull KR.
He stressed: “We just need to fix up a few things and win at the weekend.”
Meanwhile, coach Richard Agar has challenged Alex Mellor to take his career to the “next level” after being named in the England Knights squad this week.
Mellor, who has played at centre as well as in the second-row this term, will line up against his former club this weekend in his 100th Super League game.
“I think Alex is at the stage of his career where we want to be a top-four team and we’ve challenged Alex to be a top-four back-rower,” Agar said of the 26-year-old who joined Leeds from Giants ahead of last season.
“He has enough experience now, he has got big game experience and he can certainly consider himself a regular starting first-grader.
“With that behind him, he has got to strive not only for a level of consistency, but a higher regular level of performance to elevate himself into that category of player.”
Agar added: “I think he has tried to really rise to that challenge [this season] and when we have had a number of players out he has taken it upon himself - as we saw last week - to carry the baton a little bit.
“While he missed a couple of disappointing tackles last week, I don’t think the desire to lift his team with his actions was missing.
“We have set Alex a couple of challenges and I think he is trying to move his career on - and the way people view him as a player - to the next level.”
An injury to Alex Sutcliffe and Richie Myler’s two-game suspension have further stretched Rhinos’ resources this week, but Agar is looking for a repeat of the desire and determination Leeds’ makeshift side showed against St Helens and Wigan Warriors as they bid to end a four-game losing run.
“Despite us falling short in a couple of games, I don’t think you could question our effort, in tricky circumstances,” he stressed.
“I defy any club in the competition to lose 10-12 players and have a team that’s going to compete in and around the top-four.
“The reality is squad players are going to help you and probably make or break your season.
“At the same time, when you’ve got 10-12 players missing and probably seven or eight of them are stars in your 17, that’s a lot to contend with, but we are confident we will get through it.”
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