Leeds Rhinos captain Luke Gale expects quick return from injury setback
Injured Leeds Rhinos captain Luke Gale is upbeat and confident of being back in action within the opening few weeks of the season.
Gale tore a pectoral muscle - connecting the chest with the bones of the upper arm and shoulder - during a weights session in the gym at Rhinos’ Kirkstall base this week, the first of pre-season.
He is due to undergo surgery next Wednesday, eight weeks and one day before Betfred Super League starts on Thursday, March 11.
The recovery time is around 10 to 12 weeks and Gale does not expect to be out of the team for long.
“It’ll probably be just the first two or three games, if everything goes to plan” insisted the England half-back, who joined Rhinos from Castleford Tigers ahead of last season.
“If there is ever a good time to pick up something like this, this is it - I am not going to miss much at all.”
Gale sat out the whole of Tigers’ 2019 campaign after rupturing an Achilles tendon in pre-season.
He had battled back from a knee injury the previous year and admitted this week’s setback is frustrating.
“My body was feeling good and for that to happen, it’s annoying,” Gale said.
“But if it is going to happen, it’s better than doing it in round one.
“Upper body injuries are not as bad as lower body ones - once it is mended you can still do things, I can still run.
“I am going to work on the leg strength I lost with the lower body injuries, so when I come back, hopefully I have gained - especially my left leg.
“I am going to use it to get that back up to the strength it needs to be, which I lost with the knee and Achilles injury.”
Gale had an outstanding first season with Rhinos, taking over the captaincy from the injured Stevie Ward after Super League round one and leading the team to their Coral Challenge Cup final triumph three months ago.
“It’s just unfortunate, but I have had miles worse,” he added.
“It will put me out, but my legs will come back stronger and I’ll be better for it.”
Boss Richard Agar is also confident the injury will not derail Rhinos’ plans for the new campaign.
“He was absolutely buzzing about coming in this year and to cop something like that so early is disappointing,” Agar conceded.
“It is frustrating, but it is the sport we play and unfortunately, every now and then, you get instances like this.
“He very quickly got his head round it and if the time scale is three months and we can shave a week or two off that, he is not going to miss too much football for us.
“It is part and parcel of the game. While it is a tough one, we know we can get him back in the early rounds.”
Half-back Callum McLelland is expected to begin field training next week after off-season surgery.
But Richie Myler is the most likely candidate to start the season at scrum-half, particularly if full-back Jack Walker is available after a shoulder operation.
Agar said: “Jack, Alex Sutcliffe and Luke Briscoe all had shoulder operations.
“They have got their own little gang going in terms of training and we have set all those guys a challenge to be fit for round one.
“There’s a chance Jack will be very, very close - if not smack bang in contention by round one.
“The thing with Jack is, given his injury history over the last year or two, we feel the need not just to get him to recover from his injury, but to actually try and stick a bit on him as well and improve him to a point where we feel he is a bit more robust than perhaps he has been over the last pre-season or two, so when he comes back he is coming back with a little bit more confidence that he’ll stay back too.
Meanwhile, Agar revealed Rhinos have a pre-season game lined up against Super League opposition and are hoping to arrange one more, but the coronavirus situation and earlier start for lower divisions teams mean the usual fixtures against Featherstone Rovers and Hunslet are unlikely to take place.
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