This article was first published in Rugby League World during the Summer of 2016. Want to read more articles like this? Get Rugby League World every month in stores or by purchasing online at totalrl.com/RLW.
The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin – where one man used a magic flute to rid a German town of its rat population – may be the stuff of fairytale, but for one of our game’s stars it’s a story that is a lot closer to home than you might imagine.
Okay, so Batley Bulldogs hooker Alistair Leak may not have a magic flute or wear multi-coloured robes, but he does spend his days making sure the streets of Shipley and Bingley are free of rats and other pests.
Since finishing his degree in Sport Business Management at Leeds Met University, Leak has joined the Graduate Scheme at national pest control firm Rentokil, where he now works as a technician.
“I come from a farming background so I am not scared to get my hands dirty,” admitted Leak.
“I just fancied doing something different and this is quite an unusual job. Every day is different as well which is always good.
“It’s also not as gruesome a job as you would think. I have had my own patch to look after since around August time and have only seen the odd dead rat and dead mouse. But if I manage my patch correctly I shouldn’t see many anyway.
“It is really more of a monitoring job and then if I see a problem then I have to act on it in whatever way I feel best.
“It could be by using a trap or laying poison, but with that you have to be vigilant and do it correctly.
“There are quite a lot of laws and regulations to do with poison now so I have had to learn about that side of the job as well.
“You can’t put poison down as freely now as you once could because there is secondary poisoning to consider. If a protected species of animal or bird eats a rat that has ingested the poison, then the poison can be passed on and kill that animal or bird as well, so you have to try and prevent that from happening.
“It’s not just rats and mice though; it can be insects or anything. Recently it’s been a cluster fly season so we’ve had lots of them in people’s lofts to deal with. And in different seasons there are different things to work on, like in summer when there are a lot of wasps nests to deal with.
“I also have a number of different accounts that I have to look after on my patch and it is about doing a routine check on them.
“The larger accounts are places like supermarkets and then there are smaller accounts like corner shops and florists.
“Each account has different agreements, and all have boxes down that monitor anything that’s there. Some of those will need checking 12 times a year – once a month, or others many only need to be checked seasonally, so four times a year.
“The job is mainly about managing my own time and accounts to make sure everyone gets the checks they need.”
While this may not be a job that Leak chooses to continue in forever, it currently works well around his commitments with the Bulldogs, unlike previous forms of employment.
And while a Rugby League career doesn’t last forever, there are still options within Rentokil that would allow Leak to not only further his career away from the game, but also put into practice what he learnt whilst studying.
“It might not be the most glamorous graduate scheme around, but it suits me and it can be balanced well with my rugby career that demands lot of time and effort as well,” added the 24-year-old West Cumbrian, who joined the company in June.
“That was the main thing that attracted me to the job.
“You can get on graduate schemes with companies like Audi, but that would be a six-days a week job and that would be difficult to work around the game.
“After I finished at University I worked in recruitment for 12 months but it didn’t work well for me. I was working longer hours and the job was more target driven so it was a lot harder to fit everything in around rugby.
“Now I am in an 8am until 5pm job so there has never been any problems with getting to training or playing. I have never really had to get time off for the game, but with some longer away trips coming up in the new season I’ll probably have to ask but I’m sure they’ll be happy to accommodate it.
“It’s not an easy job and now that I have my own patch to look after I have to manage my time well and look after my own diary, but they are good skills to have going forward in any career.
“I originally came to Leeds to play for the University’s Rugby League side and the studying was a secondary thing. But getting my degree has allowed me to get onto this scheme and build a way up with a career.
“I wasn’t that bothered what job I got, I just wanted to find a graduate scheme in a good company that I can progress with.
“With this, I learn the trade for the first six to 12 months and then I can choose to either stay on the technical side of thing or go down the sales or management routes.
“My degree was nothing to do with zoology or anything animal related, which is probably why I’ll try to go down the management route or sales side, but you never know, I may end up enjoying the technical side so much and going that way instead.
“I don’t want to jinx myself but you never know how long your playing career is going to last and when you do give up playing you don’t want to take a massive pay cut.
“So by getting a career in place and progressing myself with that, that hopefully won’t happen to me so I feel as if I’m in a healthy position at moment.”