Leeds Rhinos captain Luke Gale has desperately missed playing in front of fans and having witnessed the return of spectators at the Betfred World Snooker Championship, now he “can’t wait” to welcome fans back into rugby league stadiums.
“We just can't wait for that to be back in our sport and we’re probably a few weeks away yet but you ask any sportsman, they love the crowd,” he told Betfred. “Obviously it's quiet in snooker, it can get a bit raucous to be honest but they usually get kicked out but no - sportsmen love the crowds and I can't wait to get back playing in front of the crowds.”
If this pandemic has shown us anything, it truly has made us value how much fans bring to the sports we love. Not just a background noise, the game ebbs and flows to the noise that the fans make and that is something that just cannot be replicated by technology. It’s also been tough for players such as Gale on the pitch.
‘I’ve not enjoyed it. I’ve really not enjoyed it,” he admitted. “As you say I like a crowd, whether they are booing you, they mainly are booing me really, or they are at Headingley on a Friday night and they are all behind you, it’s been tough. It’s been really tough and we’ve made do and we’ve had some great games, some great spectacles but we want the crowds back and we are on the brink of that and we just can't wait to get them back and start showing the world and showing the people our great sport again.”
The Leeds Rhinos captain has been out since fracturing his thumb in a defeat to Castlefield Tigers in early April, but should be fit to return soon to a side who have won just one of their opening five league games.
“Yeah I got the all clear yesterday on the thumb, it is 80 percent clear and he is happy that in two weeks time i can play, so I miss tomorrow’s game, we are sadly out of the Betfred Challenge Cup but hopefully fit for Wakefield and we are hopefully due a turn in a bit of luck really. It has been a tough old few weeks and it gets even tougher really, we seem to get one back and lose two more.
"Look you can kind of be down on yourselves and beat yourselves up or you just have to get back on the horse and hopefully we do that this week because last week’s performance wasn’t great - Hull KR - they outplayed us to be honest and it has been a tough week in training but I watched them train this morning and I’m sure the boys will bounce back again tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, thoughts are already turning to the spectacle that should send rugby league around the world in October - the World Cup. Having fallen just short in the final against hosts Australia four years ago, England are looking to go one step further this time around.
“It is absolutely massive,” Gale said. “I was privileged to be a part of the 17 that narrowly got beat by Australia in Brisbane and I want to be part of 2021 as well. If I’m not part of it then I’ll be the first one in the stadium cheering the boys on. It is massive. We are going to play our Super League and then we are going to get ready for the World Cup and I think anyone who is on the brink of the squad or anyone named in the squad have got their eye definitely on the World Cup at the back end of October so it is massive for rugby league and the unique thing about this World Cup is the inclusiveness of it.
“We’ve got the wheelchair and the women’s running alongside with each other and I think that is massive so we are going to get rugby league - all three aspects of the sport and as I say, I’m a rugby league fan anyway so it is going to be a massive event. Hopefully Covid-19 is out of the way and all the fans can have something to look forward to at the back end of the year.”
But just what does it feel like to play for England?
“Honestly in rugby league there is no better feeling,” Gayle beamed. “When you are singing that national anthem with your hands around your teammates shoulders it is the best feeling ever. I think I have had nine caps for England and I want a few more and I would love to have that feeling again in a World Cup final.”