Luke Gale is Castleford's talisman, their go-to player, the one that makes the Tigers tick on the field. Therefore, when the news came out of the club that the reigning Man of Steel would be out for three months with a fractured kneecap - or patella - many of the Castleford faithful began claiming that their season was over. Yes, Gale is vitally important for this Castleford outfit, but the Tigers have won without the half-back before and can do so again.

Vital in 2017

Luke Gale was magnificent for Castleford in 2017 - he won the Albert Goldthorpe Medal for the third year in a row, the Man of Steel, and the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association Player of the Year.

For the third successive season in a row, Gale was also named in the Super League Dream Team and with the boot, Gale registered the most conversions, 40/20s and drop goals in the league (130, ten and nine respectively).

If this isn't evidence enough of how integral Gale is to this Castleford side then the fact that 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 is enough to stand up and applaud his achievements. Gale ended the year having also being part of the England side that narrowly missed out on winning the World Cup.

Slow start to 2018

Though Gale was firing on all cylinders in 2017, so was the rest of the team.

However, in 2018 so far, Castleford have failed to hit the form with which they tore apart Super League last year. And Gale's misfiring has been a big factor in this; he had just two weeks off before he was thrust back into pre-season at the turn of the year and is perhaps now suffering because of it. Though he has still been greatly influential for the Tigers in 2018, the half-back has struggled to find the sort of form which won him all the accolades in 2017.


In fact, when Gale disappeared down the tunnel for half-time in Castleford's game against Wakefield, the Tigers actually appeared to be more threatening with ball in hand when the two sides returned to the field without Gale in the side. The diminutive No.7. had taken a knock to his knee after colliding with Trinity powerhouse Pauli Pauli early in the game, but courageously battled on until half-time.

In the second forty minutes, the Tigers scored two tries as opposed to one in the first-half and appeared to have much more of a spring in their step. Though it's perhaps incredibly harsh to attribute this to the absence of Gale, with Paul McShane switching to the halves alongside Jamie Ellis, Castleford looked far more organised and took a firm control of the game. McShane's kicking game was superb - whilst Gale's has often come in for criticism this year.

One man doesn't make a team

With youngster Jake Trueman settling into the full-back role and McShane easily able to switch from hooker to half-back, Castleford have already essentially filled the gap. Though many fans - including me - have been yearning for England Academy full-back Calum Turner to be given a shot at full-back, to throw him into the mix now could disrupt the team far more than if McShane was moved to half-back and Adam Milner to hooker.

Gale has already missed one game this year when Castleford recorded a 28-40 victory over Huddersfield in April. The Tigers appeared to be almost back to their fluent self in attack, racing into a 6-30 lead with Gale's absence seemingly have little effect on the result. Whilst Gale is undoubtedly Castleford's lynchpin, the Tigers are not a one-man team and they will show that over the coming weeks and months.