Almost a month ago, Luke Gale talked optimistically of being passed fit for the Super League opener against Wakefield on February 3.
He had even harboured hopes of facing Leeds in Danny McGuire’s testimonial on January 20.
But almost three rounds into the new campaign, the Bulls scrum half has still not surfaced.
Gale remains sidelined after suffering a recent setback in his rehabilitation from surgery on his left ankle at the end of November.
His absence was keenly felt at Hull FC last weekend as Francis Cummins’ men enjoyed a glut of possession but lacked the guile to make it pay.
“I had been out of the boot and done plenty of rehab’ but then started getting a bit of pain in my ankle,” said Gale of his setback.
“I had been trying to increase everything and it was probably too much in the end.
“It started getting a bit worse so I went to see the specialist and had an MRI scan.
“You could see a bit of swelling in the joint – nothing major – but I got told that if I kept pushing it then I wouldn’t fully recover.
“The specialist said to go in the boot for another three weeks and then take it a bit steadier and not rush it.
“I actually tried to get back for Danny McGuire’s testimonial because the surgery went fine.
“But I’m now looking at round six (away to Widnes) as a potential comeback date. It’s disappointing to be stuck on the sidelines but it’s a long old season.”
The 24-year-old playmaker, a positive person by nature, missed ten weeks at the start of last year after sustaining ankle ligament damage against Wigan in round three.
His return next month would allow Brett Kearney to revert to full back, with the Aussie having begun the season at scrum half alongside Jarrod Sammut.
Gale said: “BK is such a class player that he can fit in anywhere and do a great job.
“He keeps giving me the nudge, saying ‘hurry up and get back’, but Jamie Foster has fitted in well at full back too.
“When everyone is fit it will be fantastic to have different players pressing for positions. If there is someone in front or behind you, it just keeps you on your toes.
“The best teams have players who can slot into different positions and we’ve got that here.”
Gale emerged as the Bulls’ attacking fulcrum during an excellent debut campaign in 2012.
He was rewarded with an end-of-season call-up to the Knights squad, having represented the second-tier England side 12 months previously.
The former Leeds academy player said: “The attitude in this Bulls squad is unbelievable and training is much better than last year.
“Franny and Lee (St Hilaire) have just stepped it up that extra notch and the attitude is unrecognisable.
“It’s just little things like the kick-chase – everyone is fighting for each other. That’s one of the best traits you can find in a rugby league side.”
Despite his injury setback, Gale is already looking forward to re-establishing himself in the Bulls side and reminding England boss Steve McNamara of his talent.
“In terms of the Knights, Steve wants us pushing for that elite squad place,” he said.
“They have a new scoring system and Steve said ‘on a Monday morning I get all your results and game scores, so I can see half-back versus half-back in the elite squad or centre versus centre’ .
“Steve can see how we are going, which is good because he’s obviously watching us, and everything is building towards the World Cup.
“The onus is on the players in the Knights squad to push people in the elite training squad. Will I be considered? I certainly hope so.
“It’s bad to have this setback now because I would have liked to have a full pre-season and really kick on. But it’s a long year. I just want to get back in the side, get my game going again and hit some form.
“If you put on a good case out there, then Steve Mac has got to look at you, hasn’t he? You’ve got to do it week to week but my main focus right now is getting fit and playing again for Bradford.”