Swinton Lions backroom staff member Colin Robinson has joined the frontline of the battle against the coronavirus with the ambulance service.
Robinson, who has had a 59-year-association with the Lions since being four years old, started his new job last week.
He usually works for the North West Ambulance Patient Transport service, transferring patients between hospitals, taking them home or moving them to hospices.
But, with hospital resources across the country stretched, Robinson answered a call to join the A&E paramedics and he had his first night shift on Thursday.
He has become part of the furniture down the years at Swinton, having acted as a physio, helping out the old ‘A’ team by playing when approaching his 40th birthday and, more recently, working as a first-team masseur and kicking-tee man.
Robinson told League Express: “The service asked for volunteers for the frontline crew, because so many staff members were having to self-isolate either because they had the virus or have been in contact with people who have.
“I’d literally just come back to work following a full hip replacement, but as soon as I read the email I contacted my manager to ask him to put me down for it.
“I couldn’t just sit back and do my normal job when people needed me to help, so I volunteered to go over straight away.
“It’s not in my make-up to hesitate, I’ve always been a bit like that, even when it came to playing. The opportunity arose when I was 36 and the old ‘A’ team was struggling.
“I had some kit in the car so went and got it, and I helped out a few times.
“I never realised my dream of playing in the first team, and my last game was away at London Broncos when we had a couple of lads injured and nobody else to play.
“I said to Stan Gittins that I’d go on, and I was two weeks from my 40th birthday, packing down in the second row and wondering what I was doing.
“All my life I’d do anything for Swinton. I started off as a ball boy and have helped out with the kit and done stats for coaches down the years.
“I was the physio when we had an Academy team and currently I’m the masseur and run on with the kicking tee and water.
“Anything the boys need I try and help with. I’m at training on Tuesday and Thursday nights and that’s my normal life away from the ambulance service.”
That attitude has now been applied to Robinson’s work place.
He continued: “I’ll be very honest and say that before the first shift I was scared, nervous and apprehensive. All of those emotions were in there.
“But I was excited as well to help people that I’m working with.
“I’m not personally doing any lifesaving procedures, but I assist with whatever the paramedics want me to do.
“If we get a 999 call the paramedics drive there on blue lights, they do the initial assessment and I will be on hand with apron and masks on to provide whatever they need.
“If they need anything else then I step back into the vehicle to bring it to them.
“There are thousands of people helping at the moment, and unfortunately, because everybody has to stay at home, most don’t see it.
“But when I’m in hospitals I see people who are working for cleaning companies who, while we are in A&E taking patients into triage and to be treated, are jumping in with all the gear on to clean the vehicles out so we don’t have to.
“That means they can turn vehicles around quickly and have the people with skill sets on the frontline as quickly as possible.
“The goal posts are moving literally by the hour, but having seen what paramedics do and the amount of information they have to know, my admiration goes up for them and others all the time.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford believes the junior development arm of the club is just as important as first-team progress and the move to a new stadium.
The Knights have been touted as a potential Super League club of the future after a rise under Ford that saw them finish third in the Championship last season in front of growing crowds.
With the long-awaited move to a new community facility in the Minster City set to be completed this year, the club has a number of the key elements in place needed to step up.
But they have also focused increasingly on junior player pathways in recent years, with 16-year duo Myles Harrison and A J Towse featuring in pre-season for the Knights as part of a long-term plan to produce more of their own players.
Ford told League Express: “I think it’s absolutely essential.
“Jon Flatman and everybody else at the club is very keen to continue driving it on.
“We have two 16-year-olds from the community game signed on dual-registration this season who have potential, great attitudes and are really coming on.
“We’ve not got a team for them to play in at the moment so they both still play for Heworth, and I understand they’re both playing to a good level in what is a good side in a good comp.
“We’re already looking to bring more young players in for pre-season 2021, and ultimately we’re doing because we want to bring players through with the characteristics that we believe will make good rugby players and good rugby teams.
“Recruiting six, seven, eight or even ten players every season is a challenge and you’re going to get some wrong.
“I’ve certainly got some wrong in the five or six years I’ve been at York.
“It’s not necessarily that the players aren’t good enough, it’s how they fit into how we play and our beliefs on and off the field.
“It doesn’t make them bad people, they’re just not York players.
“We want to improve that process and bring through our own players with those characteristics.
“And I also believe clubs should have some local lads in the side because York fans want to see York lads in the team.
“But it will only happen if they are good enough and some certainly have been; we even lost two in Greg Minikin and Kriss Brining to Super League.
“That’s life, and we might lose a couple more, but that won’t stop us.”
Ford believes the amateur set-up in the city can help strengthen the sport further in York.
He added: “It’s a thriving area.
“York Acorn is a very established club that has been in or around the Premier Division for a long time and it has an abundance of juniors playing.
“Since my time at York, Heworth has been a very strong junior club with hundreds of kids playing in great facilities.
“Their first team is getting stronger with a few ex-York lads and Scott Rhodes doing a good job as coach and they’re getting better all the time.
“Then at New Earswick All Blacks they also have a very strong junior set-up with loads of kids playing.
“I’ve spent some time there and have really appreciated the vibe they have at the club. For the young ones it’s very much about participation, enjoyment and instilling good values, rather than the win-at-all costs you may or may not see at times.
“It’s the kind of environment I’d want my own children to be in.
“First and foremost I’m a Rugby League supporter and want what’s best for the game, for York and the Knights.
“If I can play a part in helping junior coaches in the area then that’s a win.
“What helps, I think, is that I’m genuinely interested in what shape Rugby League in York will have in ten years’ time.
“Will I be there? Probably not!
“But I’d love to be able to see a Myles Harrison or AJ Towse having been at York for ten years and beyond.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear spent his first Easter weekend in six decades not directly involved with live Rugby League matches.
The veteran boss joined the rest of the Rugby League community in reflecting on a Bank Holiday weekend without the sport for the first time in his memory.
Kear told League Express: “I can’t remember an Easter without Rugby League because even as a bairn I was doing the scoreboard or watching Cas.
“Then I played and we had the usual double header and coaching has been similar, and there’s even been commentating on the Thursday night match in recent years too.
“It’s been a bit surreal. We went out with the dogs and rang around all the players as we’ve been doing before watching some old Rugby League matches on Sky.
“It’s been low key, let’s say that.”
Kear and his backroom staff have remained in close contact with the playing squad throughout the lockdown.
He added: “We have a number of lads still working. Connor Farrell has volunteered to do some delivery work for Tesco, just because young men want to be active and occupied.
“George Flanagan works for the Council, so he’s been out mending the roads when everything is quiet, although because of social distancing they all have to travel there in different vans.
“Those lads have been very busy, but the five full-time players we’ve got have just been trying to occupy themselves with as much training as possible.
“Last week we were supposed to have a recovery day, but we found that most of them had trained again because it meant a couple of hours of doing something positive.
“That’s the biggest thing for everybody at the moment – trying to do something productive.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Stuart Littler has hailed the club’s link with Belfast Eagles as part of their new Community Club Partnership Programme.
The initiative looks to offer support to community clubs in four key areas – governance and operational management, coaching and training opportunities, player pathway development and resourcing support and equipment.
Littler said: “Our performance team fully buys in to the new vision for the development of our club.
“By partnering with significant community clubs we will hopefully grow the player pool from which we can recruit.
“We can welcome the first partners at Belfast, who are also part of an ongoing Rugby League Ireland domestic programme.
“I know first-hand of the quality of athlete there is available across the Irish Sea and I look forward to the next announcement of partner clubs within this new initiative.
“As an organisation we are looking to grow organically both on and off the field.
“Increasing our player pool whilst also assisting others in their development can only help us in getting to where we need to be.”
Damian Ridpath, the Lions’ director of development, added: “This is the first partnership of several that will be announced over the coming weeks.
“It is really important to Swinton Lions and the Lions Foundation that we support the community game in both our traditional catchment area, and areas that would normally be classed as non-traditional for Rugby League.
“This programme is innovative in the support and expertise that can be offered to a community club and covers a range of areas to ensure that club has all the correct systems in place to not only sustain its operations but to grow and develop as well.
“We are proud to announce Belfast Eagles as the first partner club within this project and we look forward to establishing a mutually supportive and long-term relationship with them.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE conditioner Adam Innes says clubs will need a mini-season when the campaign eventually restarts.
Innes says the club is already preparing for a return to action, without knowing when that might be.
He explained: “What is certain is that we will resume with a new off-season, with the only difference being that during a classic off-season we know the start date, the end date, and therefore the time between them.
“In the current situation, this is not at all the case.
“First, we are awaiting the decisions of the government to know when we can resume training, then we await the directives of the RFL concerning the new calendar and especially the date of resumption.
“We are going to have a new pre-season period, but we have no idea when we can start and how long it will last.
“Afterwards, we are in the same situation as all the other teams, all sports combined.
“So we will work as we can and do the best we can.
“For the moment, each player’s programme runs until April 15, the date when the confinement is supposed to end.
“If it is extended, then I will provide a new programme to the players until the end.
“When we are fixed on the resumption, we will meet with the staff to put a plan in place in order to find a state of fitness quickly.”
Innes has also paid tribute to the club’s doctor and all other medical staff working against the virus.
He added: “We of course support all the nursing staff who do a wonderful job.
“I am thinking in particular of Cédric Bellard, our doctor at the club, who, like all his colleagues, puts his health at risk to treat others.
“Their work is considerable, as is that of the people who must continue to work to support us.
“We can only thank all these people and hope that it all ends quickly to find ourselves all in good health.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward last week offered “an ultimate fan experience” for one supporter to join his squad at training once it resumes.
In a competition run by the club, fans could pay £5 to enter a draw for a prize that includes exclusive access to the Broncos’ preparations.
In a social media video Ward explained: “First up is staff training – come and do some curls with Langers (assistant coach Jamie Langley) and see how he gets the biggest arms in Rugby League.
“Then onto my favourite part of the day – breakfast.
“Come and have some ‘Poptarts’ with Matty Fozard, a full English with Eddie Battye and get yourself fuelled up for the day ahead.
“You’ll be with us every step of the way, from video previewing the opposition to being out on the field with the boys and putting them through their paces.
“You’ll be in the gym for strength sessions in the afternoon and staff meetings with a few brews, sitting down in the office and a lot of listening to good music and drinking coffee.
“Hopefully we’ll see a lucky winner down at Ealing soon.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS have announced a partnership with Atropa Pharmacy, who deliver prescriptions to people’s doors.
The partnership will see Atropa Pharmacy become an official club partner, as well as specifically backing the club’s dual-registration agreement with Leeds Rhinos.
The company offers a service that will become increasingly important during the period of the coronavirus outbreak.
Rovers’ chief executive Davide Longo, said: “We are delighted to launch our partnership with Atropa Pharmacy and we are excited to develop our mutual relationship further.
“Atropa offer a service that is extremely useful for vulnerable people and their online presence becomes even more important for people for people during the outbreak situation across the country.
“We look forward to working closely with Atropa Pharmacy to make the partnership mutually beneficial for both parties moving forward.”
WIDNES VIKINGS have been running a ‘Workout of the Day’ for supporters and the local community.
Each weekday, the club posts a free workout session on all of the club’s social media platforms and website, with an accompanying video explaining how to perform each exercise.
It is part of our new initiative aimed at encouraging the local community to remain physically and mentally active during the current circumstances, while providing opportunities to socialise using technology.
A club statement read: “This is a difficult time for our local community and the Rugby League community, and with the majority of us confined to our home for the foreseeable future it will be easy to let physical activity levels drop.
“It is important that we don’t allow this to happen though, and we will be giving you the tools to remain active despite the current circumstances.”
DEWSBURY RAMS’ close-season signing Jason Walton is one of the few players set to benefit from the extended break.
Former Batley and Wakefield man Walton saw his entire 2019 season wiped out by an anterior cruciate ligament injury while at Featherstone Rovers.
He linked up with Lee Greenwood’s squad for the 2020 campaign, but has yet to feature as he looks to complete his recovery.
The season break for the coronavirus pandemic now means he is set to miss fewer matches than he would have initially anticipated.
Greenwood said: “He shouldn’t be too far off when we get back playing.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS conditioner Micky Higham has been sharing his fitness knowledge with a wide range of people alongside John Duffy’s squad.
The former St Helens, Warrington and Wigan hooker has written programmes for the Centurions’ players to follow during the coronavirus lockdown.
But he also has his own gym, which he allowed members into before the shutdown to take equipment home and follow three times-a-week video sessions from Higham’s own garden.
The 39-year-old has also been part of the innovative Rugby League Cares online training processes for the general Rugby League community.
HALIFAX managing director Dave Grayson says the club’s supporters can help preserve its future as part of regular updates to fans.
Grayson said: “We have a proud history at Halifax RLFC going back to our formation in 1873.
“I sincerely hope you will support the club in ensuring that it continues to provide enjoyment, entertainment and lifelong friendships for another 147 years.
“These are indeed unique times and we will all need to help each other to get through them.”
Fax showed the 1987 Challenge Cup final win over St Helens on the club’s Facebook page on Saturday afternoon.
OLDHAM have offered their sincere condolences to the family of former club committee member Eddie Bayliss, who last week died peacefully after a short illness, aged 83, at a nursing home in Chadderton.
Bayliss’ passing is not thought to be related in any way to Covid-19.
Also a well-known and highly respected figure in local cricket circles, Bayliss was on the committee at Watersheddings for three years in the days when Oldham RLFC was still a members’ club.
His funeral is on Thursday, April 16 at 1.30pm at Oldham Crematorium. Attendance is restricted to ten family members because of social-distancing, but the family will be having a church service and a wake to celebrate Eddie’s life at a later date when life is back to normal.
BATLEY BULLDOGS used the Easter weekend to offer supporters the chance to buy cut-price beer and cider from the club.
A Bulldogs’ statement explained: “We have a small amount of stock left in our bar cellar, so we have decided to sell it at a good price to clear the shelves as it were.
“We will deliver to your home address if it is within an eight-mile radius of the club.
“To keep to social distancing you pay online and we drop it at your front door after a call telling you we are nearby.”
The club was hoping to sell out over the Easter weekend, with full details available on the Bulldogs’ website.
WHITEHAVEN duo Glenn Riley and Chris Taylor are both having to wait to see the extent of knee injuries due to the lockdown.
Both players suffered the injuries earlier this season and have seen their rehabilitation interrupted by the current situation.
Haven coach Gary Charlton said: “We don’t think either injury is serious; they may need clean outs at worst.”
Although a number of overseas players at other clubs have headed back home to their native countries, Charlton confirmed that Whitehaven’s PNG pair Dion Aiye and Jesse Joe Parker have remained in Cumbria.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES forward Joel Farrell has been using an innovative way to keep fit during the lockdown – training with his dad.
The Jamaican international posted a video of himself and former Leeds frontrower Anthony carrying out tackling bag drills in their back garden.
Anthony Farrell also played for the Eagles before moving onto the Rhinos, Widnes and finishing his career at Halifax, where he was player-coach.
The social media post promoted a host of comments saying how fit 51-year-old Anthony looked around 15 years after his retirement.