Gale set for emotional departure as Bulls and Broncos bid farewell

Bradford Bulls' Luke Gale. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Bradford Bulls' Luke Gale. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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IT will be a sorry afternoon for both Bradford Bulls and London Broncos today as they play their final game in Super League, for the foreseeable future at least.

Yet, amid the expected and understandable gloom as the relegated clubs face each other in Barnet, spare a thought particularly for Luke Gale.

The England Knights scrum-half leads Bradford out for one final time before moving to 2014’s big story – Castleford Tigers.

But leaving the club he has served so well for three years and seeing them demoted is one thing.

It is all the more painful considering today’s opponents, one of Gale’s former clubs and so dear to his heart as well, are also destined for the Championship, too.

It was with London – or in their then guise of Harlequins – that he really came to the fore, the youngster arriving on the back of winning the National League Two Young Player of the Year with Doncaster and delivering on the promise that had seen him graduate from Leeds Rhinos’ academy.

“I’ve got many good memories from there and it will be sad on Saturday,” he recalled.

“I lived with a lad called Ben Kaye who was a hooker at Leeds.

“I drove down with my car packed when I was 18 or 19 and moved into a club house.

“There was me, Ben and Mick Nanyn, who came down and had a stint at London, too.

“It was great actually and back then, as I was so young, I probably didn’t realise how good it was.

“Now I’m getting older, I can see how good it was and I enjoyed my time there.

“Danny Orr took me under his wing and he was an experienced half-back.

“He taught me quite a lot, as did Luke Dorn, who is probably one of the most talented players I’ve played with.

“I met some great lads including the kitman, Steve McGee, who’s an absolute legend and been there from the start when it was Fulham.

“He still remembers every single game and keeps mementoes.

“It’s ironic we’re playing them now like this and sad to see for both clubs.”

Gale, 26, admits he is only just coming to terms with the fact he is departing Bradford.

Since joining ahead of the 2012 campaign he has witnessed plenty of strife at Odsal – two ruinous administrations, months of financial uncertainty and unrest, crucial points deductions and, ultimately, relegation.

Nonetheless, through it all the comradeship and team spirit has been obvious, not to mention Gale’s footballing class.

It is no surprise so many of the squad are staying in unison for 2015 ready to hopefully battle their way out of the second tier.

For Gale, though, who had already turned down the chance to join Hull FC earlier this year, he simply could not say ‘No’ to Castleford where he reunites with Orr, now the Tigers assistant, and veteran full-back Dorn. Desperate to achieve his lifetime aim of full England honours, it is a smart switch considering not just Orr but fellow assistant Ryan Sheridan and head coach Daryl Powell are all former Great Britain half-backs, too.

But first he has business with Bradford who lost 32-12 at home to Widnes Vikings last weekend.

“It’s pretty sad to be honest,” he said. “It kicked in on Sunday after the Widnes game and when you start reflecting on it.

“That was my last game at Odsal and Saturday will be my last game for Bradford.

“It’s a weird feeling because I’ve got Bradford close to my heart and I’m sure Saturday will be emotional, knowing I’ve played my last game for the club with this bunch of lads.

“During the last three years, we’ve been through more ups and downs than anyone.

“A lot of people would have just quit and rolled over every week.

“I know there have been some times when we haven’t played our best but we’ve given 100 per cent every time.

“We were a bit disappointed with Sunday’s game because we didn’t really show up – we played for 20 minutes and put them under pressure.

“But overall it was disappointing. We didn’t cover ourselves in glory and we were disappointed with that, so we’ve spoken about the importance of winning now.

“We want to go down there and get the job done.”

And then, among lifelong friends, there will be time for a celebration, of sorts at least.