Wakefield Trinity centre Reece Lyne says Rugby League players will continue to have a positive impact on their local communities after hailing the work of England footballer Marcus Rashford last week.
Rashford earned widespread praise for his campaign to overturn a government decision not to provide schoolchildren with free meals during the summer holidays last week.
Lyne himself was last year chosen as the inaugural winner of the RFL President’s Award by Tony Adams following his work with young offenders in Yorkshire.
During lockdown he has been researching ways to further that work, speaking openly about his battles with anxiety and mental health, and he has also helped raise funds for eight year old Hull boy Max Clark, who lost his leg in an accident last month.
He believes that kind of work is typical of many in Rugby League.
Lyne said: “What Marcus Rashford did shows that sports people can have that impact, be looked upon as role models of the community and have a positive effect on young people’s lives.
“I followed the story all week and it was amazing what he’s been doing.
“He has the platform, but he doesn’t have to do it, so it was great to see the change he made.
“A lot of footballers can be portrayed in a bad way as selfish, but the flip-side to that is stories like this, and there are a lot of sports pros out there doing good things.
“The majority of rugby players you come across are down-to-earth lads and most come from working-class family backgrounds.
“You often find that they want to put back into their community or local club, and there are plenty of players that have been doing stuff for charity across the game.”
Lyne said he had no hesitation in helping Clark, who featured on the BBC after being hit by a motorcycle in an accident.
Lyne said: “He’s from East Hull and it happened on the fields not far from the school I went to, so it was where I used to hang around.
“It was such a shame to see a young lad who was a really keen dancer have to lose a leg and I wanted to do something to help.
“We got some old Hull FC shirts from me and ex-team-mates to raise some funds. It beats them staying in a cupboard somewhere.
“It’s been good to speak to the family and see some videos of Max in good spirits. He’s even been back doing some gymnastics and acrobatics.
“I think the whole community of Hull has rallied round – a local taxi firm put some stuff together and I saw Lee Radford had been round to deliver something.
“It’s good to see all that.”
On the field, Lyne says a chat with England coach Shaun Wane has heightened his desire to return to action as quickly as possible, despite the cancellation of the Ashes.
He added: “I kind of had one eye on that being in the initial squad, and having spoken to Shaun last month on a video call I’d have been buzzing to be part of it if I’d got selected.
“It’s a real shame it’s not happening but hopefully if I’m selected I can be part of a camp or if we get another game organised.
“You can tell straight away Shaun is a passionate, hard-working guy and a down-to-earth fella.
“His enthusiasm and passion for the job is clear, and he’s told us all it’s a clean slate and if you play well then you’ll get selected.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air.
“Hopefully we’ll be back playing sooner rather than later.
“What’s been tough is having no end goal to aim for, not knowing a return date.
“Doing the fitness stuff on your own, the motivation is tough sometimes when you usually have a group of 20 or 30 all pushing each other through.
“The lads have been training as much as they can with the gyms not open – it limits what you can do but we’re all itching to get back into it now.”