Luke Gale and Mason Lino discuss half-back pairing, pressure and Wakefield Trinity’s new era

Aaron Bower

They may be at entirely different stages of their playing careers, but for Wakefield Trinity’s half-back pairing, the goal remains the same.

Luke Gale and Mason Lino have very different futures ahead of them beyond this year. For Lino, he still has two more years remaining at a club that is now very much his home. But Gale, who turns 36 this summer, knows this could well be his final season as a professional in the game.

However, as they prepare to try and guide Trinity to Championship glory in 2024, starting with tonight’s eagerly-anticipated showdown with Bradford, the pair know they have the opportunity to kick-start a period in Trinity’s history that could lead to success like never before, if owner Matt Ellis’ promises come to fruition.

The pair chosen by Daryl Powell to be his first-choice duo in the halves have had different journeys to this point and, as mentioned, have different futures ahead of them. But in the present, they have a shared goal – reverse Wakefield’s fortunes under Powell and start a new era for the club with a bang. As the half-back pairing, the onus falls on Gale and Lino like few others in the new-look Trinity side.

Lino had other offers to move on but re-signed at Wakefield in May, long before their relegation had been confirmed. Does he regret that decision?

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“It was 100 per cent the right decision,” he tells Love Rugby League. “Take a step back and look at the place, look at how far the club has come off the field – it’s now up to us to match that on the field. I’m very happy I got it sorted as early as I did because I wanted to be here and part of something long-term and really build it.

“The reason I decided to stay is because I believe in the long-term future. It’s the first thing on my mind every day when I wake up, that there’s an end goal that’s two or three years away to do something really special. It starts on Friday night.”

Gale has seen and done it all, in comparison to Lino. A Man of Steel winner, a Challenge Cup winner and a Super League Grand Finalist – plus an England international. But even now, in what could be the final season of a storied career, he is not short on motivation.

“I still feel that motivation to come into work every day,” he insists to Love Rugby League. “We’ve got individual goals and team goals, but I want to win the Championship.

Lachlan Walmsley
Wakefield’s new-look team begin the Championship season on Friday night.

“It was disappointing to go down but I want to go back up and leave the club in a better state than I arrived with it in. That’s a real individual goal of mine, and obviously the team goal is to be the best team in the competition.

“I still love training, it doesn’t feel like a job and the minute I stop, I’ll knock it on the head. I love it every day still, and I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to be at this club on the rebuild. Matt has done a great job, Daryl is leading the rugby staff and it’s all set to go. You feel in a good position, and I feel lucky to be in this position at my age, coming up to the end.”

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Gale has already transitioned into a part-time coaching role at Wakefield with the club’s reserves and concedes this could be his last dance as a professional.

But he says: “I just keep turning up every week until someone tells me I’m done. I’ve got things in place, I help coaching with the reserves and I love coaching.

“As you get older, you slow down and I definitely have pace-wise, but I don’t think I have anywhere else. I enjoy the coaching side of things, but I’m still learning as a player and I love helping the younger lads develop. I love rugby league, and I just never want to miss a game. I love my job, and I love this job at this club.”

Lino, however, still arguably has his best years ahead of him. Given how well he began his Wakefield career as a Super League player, there is pressure on him to deliver in the Championship. And he insists he still believes he is yet to reach his peak.

“It’s been class working with Daryl – he’s pushing me to live up to my potential and he’s into me every day,” the half-back says.

“I really want to take my game to a new level. I’ve got heaps more things to learn and I’ve got so many more levels to get at. I’ve been a bit inconsistent in the last year or so, but Daryl has really helped work on the mental side of my game. I’ve really enjoyed working with him and the team.”

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Gale and Lino have been team-mates for nine months but have only played four competitive games together, owing to injuries and, more recently, a suspension to Lino. But they feel that despite that, they have the ingredients of a pairing that can kick-start a new era at Wakefield.

“We haven’t played that much together because I came in midway through the year and picked up an injury, and then Mason got an injury when I came back, and he’s had a suspension in pre-season this year,” Gale explains.

“We’ve only played a few games together as a pairing but I believe in the partnership and I believe in Mason. There’s a lot of games in this year to get into our groove and it’s got the makings of a great pairing.

“Me being the controlling half and Mason being unpredictable and he can make things happen. I think Friday is a great starting point and it’s a three-way relationship with Max Jowitt at fullback that excites me.”

Lino agrees. “Any team needs a consistent half-back pairing; the players themselves need that,” he says.

“It’s been a bit stop-start in pre-season because I got suspended, but me and Galey could go really well with a few games under our belt. It’ll really flourish, I think. I take a lot of lessons off Galey and the way he plays, and that improves my game. I think we balance each other brilliantly.”

But the time for talking is now up. On Friday night, the hard work finally begins: and Wakefield’s new-look half-back pairing have a chance to deliver on their promise.

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