Amid all the injuries and suspensions endured by Richard Agar’s squad in a difficult opening to this Betfred Super League campaign, the loss of the England scrum-half has been most costly.
It may be an obvious thing to write – Gale is also the club’s captain as well as main playmaker – but it does not make it any less pertinent.
The former Man of Steel has missed their last four games due to a fractured thumb suffered in the defeat to Castleford Tigers and Rhinos have lost them all.
With fellow half-backs Robert Lui, Richie Myler, Callum McLelland and Kyle Eastmond all sidelined at some point, Agar has had to be creative in finding some actual creativity.
It is no surprise they have struggled for organisation given Gale’s customary effortless control of the side while his absence was perhaps most keenly felt in their last outing when they lost 14-13 at Huddersfield Giants.
Stand-in stand-off Liam Sutcliffe missed three drop-goal attempts, a skill Gale, who turns 33 next month, has honed and nurtured over his entire career.
Thankfully for Rhinos, the Leeds-born captain is back tonight for the visit of Wakefield, opponents who are in an even more perilous state, having lost all six of their games this term.
Gale, who led Rhinos to the Challenge Cup in his first season last year, had missed most of pre-season after tearing a pectoral muscle in his first training session in January. He got back just in time to help them beat Trinity 28-22 in their opening game before fracturing his thumb in their next match against Castleford.
“I am desperate to get back out there,” the former Bradford Bulls star told The Yorkshire Post.
“It’s been five weeks of frustration. In a way, it’s been a bit of a blessing to let the pec’ get its strength back and do a little pre-season that I never did before.
“But it has been frustrating watching the team; it’s clear to see they miss some direction and it has been a tough few weeks with injuries.
“The boys who have stepped in have done a good job. We played Wigan and Saints with two great efforts, but dropped off massively against Hull KR and then, with Huddersfield, we’ve been struggling to get that win.
“But that has got to stop and we’re looking forward to Friday.”
With Gale back steering the ship, there will certainly be a greater confidence that Leeds can resurrect. Agar has stated his belief that they can still reach the play-offs, despite losing four of their opening five Super League fixtures and being knocked out of the Challenge Cup.
Gale, who helped Castleford win the 2017 League Leaders’ Shield by a record 10-point margin, concurred.
“We definitely can but we’re going to have to start now; there’s no more games we can give away,” added the Yorkshireman.
“I’ve been in teams that have racked 11 or 12 wins up on the bounce so it can be done.
“We just need to build that momentum. I’m very confident that we have a great squad. We’ve just not been able to show it this year.
“We’ll get some numbers back and get everyone playing in the right positions. That, mixed in with the good young kids we’ve got, and I’m sure it will be great.
“It has been tough but it will be the last of the moaning I’m going to do. We just have to crack on.
“And I’m just looking forward to playing footy again.
“I’ve missed it – I love it – and when I can’t do my job it is frustrating.”
Wakefield are still without their own main playmaker and influential captain, Jacob Miller, but Gale remains wary of their West Yorkshire rivals.
“We played them round one which seems about three months ago,” he said.
“I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve been injured but it does seem ages ago.
“It was a close game. Wakefield do have some strike power.
“They will be highly motivated to get their season up and running as well and most of the teams are struggling for form.
“You’ll see that on Friday when everyone will be scrapping for everything. But that’s what we need; to get back to the simple things and make ourselves a tough side to beat.”
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