Luke Gale believes his best rugby is still ahead of him after returning to his boyhood club Leeds following two injury-ravaged seasons.
Gale was Steve Prescott Man of Steel in 2017 after leading Castleford to a dominant league campaign before finishing the year in a World Cup final. But he played just 15 times the following year due to a serious knee injury, and then ruptured his Achilles in pre-season in January, wiping out his entire 2019.
Gale is now closing in on full fitness again and the Rhinos are understood to have paid around £150,000 for a player who came through their junior system before spells at Doncaster, Harlequins and Bradford. Now he wants to repay that faith by recapturing his best form as Leeds continue a rebuild under Richard Agar.
Gale said: “Since 2017 it’s been up and down, with more downs than ups. I’m keen to get back fully fit and think I’ve got my best footy ahead of me. I’m 31 but feel 25 – I know I can have a massive impact on the team.
“Castleford have been great to me and my career has gone skywards there, but there’s always been an ambition to come back home and when we knew something could be done, I wanted to pursue that. Cas helped me with that and I’m over the moon and can’t wait to get started.
“I didn’t want to look back and realise I didn’t pursue this deal. It was something I wanted and I believe I’ve got plenty of footy left in me. I can’t wait to show Leeds what I can do.”
The Tigers are now set to move for St Helens youngster Danny Richardson as a replacement.
Meanwhile Leeds boss Agar has confirmed that captain Trent Merrin could return Down Under before the start of next season.
Agar said: “Since I came in as coach and he became captain, we’ve built up a terrific relationship. His performances on-field were outstanding but with the family issues he’s got, we’ve given him the opportunity to have a look and see if he can source a deal that suits him to be a bit closer to home.
“We’ve put a timescale on that, and told him that if he sources a deal we need to be across it. But there is a line in the sand where we both agree that once he’s had a look, if it’s not right then he will come back.
“If something happens and he needs to stay at home, he will do so with our full support. At no point are there any sinister, underlying motives to this – we totally understand his situation.”