Return of Luke Gale is 'massive boost' for Leeds Rhinos in Super League derby with Wakefield Trinity - but star winger Ash Handley warns of another tough challenge
Captain Luke Gale’s return from injury will give struggling Leeds Rhinos a huge lift, Ash Handley reckons.
Rhinos are on a five-game losing run going into this evening’s derby at home to Wakefield Trinity.
They were without Gale for four of those defeats after he suffered a fractured thumb against Castleford Tigers at the start of last month.
Rob Lui and Callum McLelland are yet to play in 2021 because of injuries and Kyle Eastmond, Richie Myler and Liam Sutcliffe have all been unavailable at times, so Leeds were without a specialist half-back in two of their six competitive games this year.
Players, including forwards Cameron Smith and Rhyse Martin and hooker Kruise Leeming, have had to fill in from other positions and Handley insisted Gale’s inclusion will be a “massive boost”.
The star winger, who was top try scorer in Betfred Super League last year, said: “He is our captain and we look up to him in that way.
“The things he does on the pitch, he leads us around and controls the game and we need a half-back desperately.
“We have Sutty [Liam Sutcliffe] who has played there before, but he is more of a centre now.
“We had Kruise here last week so we desperately need Galey.”
Because of Leeds’s early exit from the Challenge Cup, they have not played since a 14-13 defeat at Huddersfield Giants 12 days ago.
But Handley stressed: “We had a tough week’s training last week.
“Obviously, we are struggling at the minute - we’ve had a load of injuries and players playing here, there and everywhere.
“It is pretty tough, but hopefully we can get a few bodies back, get a good spirit around the camp and put a good display on this week.”
Handley predicted players returning from injury “will help”, but added: “More so, players playing in their actual positions.
“Things like that will naturally sort us out.
“We just need to have that extra effort.
“Once you get a couple of wins on the board, it’s all different.
“At the moment it’s all a bit flat, but once we turn it around, if you can put a few wins together your confidence starts to grow and you become a completely different side then.”
Trinity have lost eight successive games since a win over Leeds on October 29 last year.
Two of their defeats have been against Rhinos, including Leeds’ only win this season, in Super League round one.
They are without several leading players, including captain Jacob Miller, England World Cup hopeful Tom Johnstone and former Dream Team centre Bill Tupou, because of injury, but Handley warned: “It’ll be tough, every game you play is.”
He said: “We always have tough games against them and I am looking forward to it.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of playing against Wakey and seeing what they throw at us.
“They will be fighting for a win just as much as we are.”
The last-gasp loss at Huddersfield was Handley’s second competitive game this year, after a knee injury suffered in a pre-season against the same opponents.
He reckons it will take him a while to get fully up to speed, but is keen to get some more game time under his belt.
“I’m getting there,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say I am 100 per cent, but the only way I am going to get to 100 per cent is by carrying on playing and training.
“I am trying to get myself 100 per cent fit and working hard to get my knee 100 per cent right as well.
“I’ll just take each day as it comes and do the little bits through the week to make my performance good.
“You can’t just rock up and play, you have to do the little things through the week that will make you that bit better.
“You like to work your way into the season, the first few games you are a bit rusty anyway and I am playing a bit of catch up now.
“Everyone’s had four or five games and I’ve just had my second so I need to catch up quick and get myself back to my best.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.