Luke Gale has won the 2017 Steve Prescott Man of Steel award and he says he owes Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell a lot.
The England international has had a fantastic season, scoring 13 tries and kicking 129 goals in 26 Super League appearances.
He beat off tough competition for the Player of the Year award from Tigers teammate Zak Hardaker as well as Albert Kelly of Hull FC.
Daryl Powell brought Gale to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle ahead of the 2015 campaign and Gale has led the Tigers to a League Leaders’ Shield this year as well as a Super League Grand Final.
But Gale admitted that Powell should receive a lot of credit as well.
“I can remember meeting him (ahead of signing for Castleford), he’s got a big farmhouse, or mansion should we say!” Gale said.
“I remember meeting him for a coffee and just had a chat. We probably spoke footy for about an hour and I remember ringing my agent after that and said that I want to sign for Cas. It was probably an hour’s chat and I wanted to play for him and the rest is history.
“I owe Daryl everything really, he’s been real good for me. He’s taught me the skills of a half-back and he has made a superb team and I can’t speak highly enough of him.
“He’s a good professional as well and just wants the best, whether you’re 18 or 34, he wants you to perform to your best and that’s what we’ve done. Each individual this year has performed to their best and that’s why he is as good as he is.”
Castleford face Leeds Rhinos in the 2017 Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday, 6pm kick-off.
Gale actually came through the Rhinos Academy but failed to break into the first team at a time when Great Britain stars Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow were at their peak.
And the Leeds-born scrum-half admitted that it was gutting to leave Headingley when he did.
“I did a year with the first-team but obviously Danny (McGuire) and Rob (Burrow) were in front of me,” the 29-year-old added.
“I have known Danny a lot of years so it kind of fits in really that I’ll be playing a Grand Final with him in front of all these fans and in his last hurrah with Leeds so it’s quite fitting.
“He was a really good fella with me. He helped me out a lot and obviously they have gone on to be world stars so it was quite hard to kick them out of their positions at 18 so I had to go somewhere else and went to Doncaster after that so we’ve both come our different roots shall we say.
“I’d been at Leeds since I was probably 12-years-old in the Scholarship system so it was hard but it was disappointing and you have just got to move on and keep trying.”
He then signed a deal with part-time outfit Doncaster and got a job as a labourer with his father.
And Gale said dropping down a level made him want to get back to the top-flight more than ever.
“Doncaster was only part-time,” he explained. “I worked with my dad doing some manual labour for six weeks and it was unbelievable. I said six weeks but my dad said I lasted six days!
“I just told him that it wasn’t for me and that I want to play rugby and it made me more determined if I’m honest. Doncaster was good, you are playing against adults there and I was only 18 or 19 and you are shifted in to run a team at a young age so I think it gave me a good grounding really.
“London Broncos came in from there and obviously they were in Super League. In fact, it was Brian McDermott who was coach and it was him who gave me my first Super League game so there are a few different stories from around this.
“It was really good. It was tough and he was straight with his ways but he gave me my first shot so I owe him a bit.”
Gale becomes the first Castleford player to win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award since Daryl Clark in 2014.