The Sports' Personality of the Year is one of sports' showpiece events. Held in December each year, it is a celebration of great sporting achievements made by 12 superb sporting men and women. Yet, each year there are nominations that seem to be included just to make up the numbers. This year, for example, sees heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua nominated for winning two fights - one against Wladimir Klitschko and one against Carlos Takam - and, to the detriment of Rugby League even further, there is a superbike champion, Jonathan Rea, included. Granted, he has won three successive World Superbike titles and Joshua has won two fights against stern opponents, but, do they really triumph the accolades that Luke Gale has achieved this year?

Luke Gale's role in 2017

Luke Gale signed for Castleford Tigers ahead of the 2015 season from local strugglers Bradford Bulls.

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Ever since then, he has been one of the Tigers’ most consistent players. In 2015 and 2016, Luke was superb, winning the Albert Goldthorpe Medal two years running and earning an England call-up for the first time in his career. 2017 was, however, a step above.

As the orchestrator of the Tigers, Gale consolidated his position as the best half-back in the country and so it was no shock to see him included in Wayne Bennett's 24-man England World Cup squad. In 2017, Gale took Super League by the scruff of the neck, controlling the Tigers like no half-back has done for the club in the Super League era. His link-up play with the controversial Zak Hardaker and skipper Michael Shenton in the Tigers’ devastating left-side attack struck fear into the hearts of their opponents and played a vital role in clinching Castleford's first-ever top-placed finish in their 91-year history, whilst his boot saw him notch up the most conversions, 40/20s and drop goals in the league (130, ten and nine respectively).

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Awards on top of awards

His work with the ball in hand was no less impressive and Gale's hat-tricks in the thrashings of Leeds and Huddersfield at home were just rewards for a special talent that leaves nothing on the field. With 13 tries to his name and a goal-kicking ratio that ranked as one of the best, Gale's 2017 point tally was an emphatic one. Over the course of the season, Luke smashed the 15-year long record that Wayne Bartrim had held for the most goals kicked in a Castleford season and even ended the 33-year reign of Bob Beardmore’s overall points tally in a season.

If those records weren't enough and already being a two-time winner of the Albert Goldthorpe Medal, Luke again made history in 2017 by becoming the first player to win the award three years in a row. And, if one hasn't quite yet grasped the consistency of Gale and his importance for the Tigers since his arrival, a third successive Super League Dream Team appearance also came Gale's way in 2017.

To add yet another accolade to his already impressive collection, Luke also received the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association Player of the Year.

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Even then though, Luke was not finished. In the week leading up to what would be Castleford's first ever Grand Final appearance, he made a clean sweep of Super League awards as he became only the fourth Castleford player (following Adrian Vowles, Rangi Chase and Daryl Clark) to win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel – chosen by his peers – for his performances in 2017.

A true 'Man of Steel'

Yet prior to the Man of Steel awards, Gale had suffered a cruel twist of fate; on September 12, the news seeped out that the influential half-back had been taken ill with appendicitis and, after an appendectomy, it was unclear whether Gale would play again in 2017. But, Gale, just 16 days after his operation, took to the field in the Tigers' semi-final play-off against St Helens in a recovery that Lazarus would have been proud of.

Despite his wounds, Gale actually went on to play one of his greatest ever games in a Tigers shirt. With all the limelight focused on Gale, a coolly-taken last-minute penalty took the semi-final into golden point and then a wonderful drop-goal in extra time confirmed Castleford's place at Old Trafford for the first time in their history.

England

Gale's 2017 would not stop in October however and, as one of Wayne Bennett's key men, the diminutive playmaker contributed greatly to securing England's first World Cup final appearance in 22 years. And, although England was on the receiving end of a 6-0 defeat, Gale played a stellar role in the final after a few previously quiet performances, commanding the side just as well as he had done for Castleford throughout 2017. It was just a shame that Bennett did not release Gale's shackles as Castleford coach Daryl Powell has done over the years and let him play with the vim and vigour that he does at club level. With nine caps now to his name, Gale has the class and temerity to make that England No.7 shirt his own for the future.

Lack of publicity

Yet, despite the number of accolades Gale so rightly achieved in 2017, he has been ignored - like Rugby League in general - by the media. Unless you were a Rugby League follower, you would have had little idea that England was playing in a World Cup final last weekend. So, when such a big achievement as this is swept under the carpet, is there any wonder why Gale has been shunned for a Sports' Personality of the Year spot? Rugby League continues to be cast into the shadows and the RFL are doing very little about it.

When motorcycling, taekwondo and even short track speed skating nominees are included before Rugby League's Luke Gale - a man who won everything possible as an individual in 2017 and who steered his side to record-breaking success - you know that the sport's hierarchy is doing something wrong. For the Luke Gale's of the future, the RFL must act in order to obtain the recognition the players and the sport so richly deserves. #RugbyLeague #coyf #AUSvENG