Recruit Luke Gale impressed by Leeds Rhinos' young talent
New signing Luke Gale has already learned one hard lesson at Leeds Rhinos - not to train alongside Harry Newman in the gym.
Gale, 31, joined Rhinos from Castleford Tigers last month on a three-year contract and has been working with his new teammates since pre-season began nine days ago.
Now one of the older heads in the Leeds camp, Gale has been brought in to add leadership and experience to what will be a youthful squad next year - and he reckons, from what he has seen so far, Rhinos’ long-term future is bright.
“I did a gym session with Harry Newman and I kind of wish I hadn’t,” Gale revealed. “He is a bit of a freak, we did a bit of testing, he is 19 and he is an absolute athlete. He has been lifting some pretty impressive stuff, so I will be avoiding him in the future!”
Gale came through Rhinos’ academy more than a decade ago, but didn’t make a first team appearance and played for Doncaster, Harlequins and Bradford Bulls before joining Tigers in 2015. His finest moment in Rhinos’ lower grades came in 2006 when he kicked the drop goal which earned Leeds a 1-0 win at Hull in the senior academy Grand Final.
Ryan Hall, later an England teammate, was in that side, along with future Super League champions Lee Smith, Nick Scruton and Ian Kirke, but Gale reckons Leeds’ current youngsters can be just as good, if not better, than his generation.
He said: “I came in [last week] and I was surprised by the youthfulness of the team, which excites me. There’s some great youth and if we can intertwine that with some good, experienced older heads, the likes of myself - I suppose that’s one of the reasons they brought me in.
“The talent they’ve got in the young lads is phenomenal.”
Gale also has things to prove.
After playing for England in the 2017 World Cup final, he was restricted to just 15 Tigers appearances the following year when he suffered a fractured kneecap - in a collision with Wakefield Trinity’s Pauli Pauli - and then underwent off-season surgery.
Worse followed as he tore an Achilles during a new year training session and did not play at all in 2019.
Gale, though, confirmed all that is now behind him. He said: “The Achilles is great, I am joining in with the boys and we’ve had some skill sessions, so that’s something a bit new.
“I joined in skills sessions while In was at Castleford, but not as intense. It’s all good, the Achilles is sweet but the hands are a bit rusty.
“It has been 10 months, I did the injury in January so it’s a long time since I had a proper ball in my hands and it’s welcome. You can do as much straight-line and re-hab’ running as you want, but there’s no substitute for proper training.
“It’s great to get the boots back on and blow off a few cobwebs.”
Rhinos’ first pre-season game is the traditional Boxing Day clash against Wakefield Trinity.
“I’d love to play,” Gale insisted. “I’ll be 100 per cent fit by then, so why not?
“I’ll have to go easy on the Christmas dinner, I’ve not played on Boxing Day for a long time.
“I actually played, probably 11 years ago, against Wakefield when I played for Leeds so it’ll be a good story, rewinding the clock.”
Gale was highly-rated during his previous time at Leeds, but had Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow ahead of him in the half-back pecking order.
He advanced as a player at every club he has joined, earning England honours during his time with Castleford and insisted there is more to come from him now.
“It is a new club and a new challenge and one I can’t wait to take on,” he said. “It’s a new start and I am joining a bunch of Leeds lads who are on a bit of a journey themselves.
“It is fantastic to be here and I can’t wait to get started.”