Castleford Tigers chief Jon Wells has not ruled out delving into the transfer market to sign a replacement for injured star Luke Gale, but believes the existing squad can cope with the likely loss for the 2019 season of their international half-back.
Speaking at the club’s pre-season media day at the Rogerthorpe Manor Hotel, Wells confirmed that Gale has ruptured his Achilles tendon and could be out of action for six months to a year.
He admitted it was a big blow to lose the services of such a key player, but backed youngster Jake Trueman to continue his development and pointed out that there was now a huge opportunity for Jamie Ellis, Ben Roberts or Cory Aston to step up to establish themselves as a regular in a half-back position.
“We had several influential players missing for large parts of last year and still made a semi-final,” said Wells.
“We will be drawing on those resources again so Jamie Ellis is going to be the next cab off the rank, Benny Roberts is there with a vast amount of half-back experience and Cory Aston played particularly well in the festive fixture, as did young Jake Sweeting.
“We’re not short of options in the halves, but we are still working through the options we do have with the coaching staff.
“If it is decided we need to go into the market that’s something we will address when that time comes.
“If Luke was ruled out for the season we could approach the RFL for salary cap relief for Luke’s salary cap value, then we would be looking to go into the market and get a replacement.
“But there’s a lot more options we have on the table as it stands and one of the benefits of Daryl’s philosophy over the last few years is a deep squad. We go down the batting order, we can get to the mid-20s in squad number order and still have quality in there.
“It looks like we are going to have to draw upon that in 2019.”
On Gale’s injury, the Tigers director of rugby said: “Luke has unfortunately suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon.
“It was a freak training injury at the end of a session and the specialist will determine the extent of it. But it is a fairly serious injury for Luke.
“The first thing to say is as a club we are gutted for him.
“He is a key and influential member of our squad, a former Man of Steel and an England international. It goes without saying he will be sorely missed.
“He is likely to be out a big chunk of the season, just how long we have yet to see. He is already provisionally booked in for surgery on Thursday.”
Of the time scale involved, Wells added: “I would imagine the best case would be six months, worst case nine to 12 months.
“The complicating factor is Luke is in the middle of rehab from microfracture knee surgery.
“That separate rehab has to stop now and will be taken up again once the Achilles tendon repair has been completed. It is a complicated one for Luke.
“Our primary thoughts are with the player, we have to make sure he is in the right head space, but he is a very mature, resilient character.
“He is going to have to be. It is a challenge for him, it is one of the most serious injuries you can receive as a professional sportsman.”