LUKE Gale, Keighley Cougars' marquee signing for 2023, has left the club after only nine Betfred Championship games.

In a shock piece of transfer business, the veteran half-back has moved to Super League club Wakefield Trinity until the end of 2024.

Few anticipated Gale's move to Cougar Park from Hull FC in the off-season, with most expecting the 34-year-old to remain in the top-flight.

But the half-back has been a key component for Keighley in their decent start to life in the Championship, which has seen them win four times so far, including a memorable derby thrashing of neighbours Bradford Bulls.

He also helped Cougars reach the Challenge Cup fifth round before they were knocked out by Batley.

Gale looks likely to be back playing Championship rugby league in 2024 regardless, with Wakefield having lost all 10 of their Super League games so far this season.

The former Man of Steel told the Cougars website: “I would like to thank Keighley Cougars and wish them all the best with the remainder of the season.

“I’ve enjoyed my time and Keighley and would like to pass on my thanks to (co-owners) Ryan (O'Neill) and Kaue (Garcia), the board of directors, the players, coaching staff and fans.”

O'Neill admitted recent off-field events had had an impact on losing Gale.

He said: “We wish Luke well in his move to Wakefield.

“We understand that with the current unknown status surrounding clubs IMG gradings, Luke wanted a guaranteed opportunity to get back into Super League.

“We thank him for his time at Keighley, a truly decent and nice guy who we are sorry to see leave.”