Castleford may well have to start the new Super League season without England half-back Luke Gale, coach Daryl Powell has conceded.
Gale endured an injury-hit 2018, before heading in for knee surgery at the end of the season which ruled him out of the autumn Test series against New Zealand.
And Powell admitted to League Express that Gale’s recovery may well prevent him from being fit for their opening-round clash against Catalans in February.
“That’s been a real big injury for Luke,” Powell said.
“He’s had two operations on it, and while his leg is feeling a lot better and we’re confident with him going into the season, you need to make sure it’s right.
“Luke probably won’t get a pre-season game in – in fact, it looks like it may well be after the start of the season when he’s good to go. He’s a quick recoverer, but they’re important injuries to get absolutely right.”
There is, however, better news for the recovery of Gale’s half-back partner Jake Trueman, who missed the England Knights tour of Papua New Guinea due to a hand injury.
“Trueman is hopefully going to be able to play in pre-season,” Powell said.
“Don’t forget we’ve got Ben Roberts and Jamie Ellis waiting in the wings too, so there’s plenty of competition and we’re not exactly going to be short in that department.”
Castleford remain in the hunt for an outside back to boost their squad for 2019 – but Powell has insisted he’s ‘relaxed’ over the situation, saying the mid-season acquisitions of Liam Watts and Peter Mata’utia leave Castleford in strong shape going into 2019.
“Obviously Jake Webster has gone to Bradford and Greg Minikin looks in great shape physically, and he’ll get an opportunity,” Powell said.
“There are others too; Tuoyo Egodo needs to show he can handle this level, and Joe Wardle is still with us.
“You’re right to mention our mid-season recruitment, because I think if we’d signed those two blokes in the off-season, people would be blown away.”
Powell did admit Minikin will get a chance to stake his claim for the right centre spot against Featherstone later this month.
“I’ve got to mention Alex Foster in the bracket of players in competition too, because he played centre last year and did a great job,” Powell said.
“But I would say it’s a strong possibility that we’ll have a look at Greg in that game against Featherstone and see how he goes.”