Postmen and women are some of the nation’s unsung heroes through the current coronavirus pandemic because whilst the majority of us are off work and safe inside, they continue to go door-to-door delivering vital information to the public.
Royal Mail’s devoted staff have been dropping letters from the government to some 30 million households through this period which outline rules on leaving the house, how to self-isolate and shielding for the most vulnerable.
This is all being done while they carry out their normal day-to-day work, with demand for mail and parcels at an all-time high due to the housebound nature of the country.
One of those posties on the front line is Sheffield Eagles hooker Robbie Ward.
The 24-year-old started working at Royal Mail last year and like the majority of part-time players in the Championship, he doesn’t have things easy.
Early starts, long shifts and challenging commutes to training dominate Ward’s weekdays, with much of his weekend based around playing on Sunday.
“Yeah it’s very tiring at times,” he explains. “At the moment I am working my day off because I’m not training so it’s pretty much go at all times.
“Even though we get up as early as we do, we still finish late some days and I have to travel over to Sheffield and don’t get home until half 9 or 10 o’clock on a night.
“I then have my tea and before I know it I’m up again for work. It is a physical job, we cover anywhere between 9 and 11 miles a day so it’s pretty demanding.”
Despite the suspension of the rugby league season, there is little respite for Ward during the current lockdown as he works even longer hours in the countries time of need.
Although many in his situation might see themselves as being vulnerable, the former Leeds Rhinos youngster is more concerned by his lack of a gym rather than his work predicament.
“In a way I’m glad I’m still working because I think I would be going a bit insane if I was stuck in the house not doing much.
“I suppose a lot of people could see us as being at risk, but I’m keeping well out of people’s way.
“The government and Royal Mail have issued us with instructions and guidelines on how we are meant to be delivering door-to-door parcels and I’m just following them.
“It’s all based around keeping your distance from people and if you can do that and still give people their mail, then that’s all that matters really.
“Instead of training, I have been going for a run after work but I got rid of my weights about a year ago not thinking I would need them anymore.
“I’m struggling for a gym at the minute but I’m just trying to do bodyweight stuff and keep fit without trying to lose too much weight by just dong fitness all the time.”
Still only 24, Ward’s career has gone on an unpredictable path to date and started at Leeds when he burst onto the scene in 2014 with a try on his Super League debut.
Big things were expected of the lively no.9 who despite always impressing when given minutes in blue and amber, suffered through a lack of game-time in a star-studded Rhinos squad.
“I was trying to get in front of Rob Burrow and Paul Aiton which probably wasn’t going to happen because I was only 18,” Ward recalls.
“I made 10 appearances in two years and I think in the second year I played two games and I was a bit fed up. It was hard for me to get in because they won the treble that year.
“It is good being around that but it makes it very difficult for a young lad trying to break in when a team has so many big-name players.”
A brief stint playing for Queensland Cup side Sunshine Coast Falcons in Australia followed his Headingley departure, before returning home to sign for Dewsbury.
After 54 appearances across three seasons for the Rams, Ward joined Sheffield ahead of this season in a move that sees him play under his former Leeds academy coach, and now Eagles assistant, Keith Senior.
However it’s head coach Mark Aston who Ward reserves special praise for, explaining how he has helped to reignite his passion for the sport.
“My time was up at Dewsbury and I sort of fell out of love with the game, but when I spoke to Mark he got me excited to play again.
“I already knew quite a few people at Sheffield so I thought I would give it a try and I’ve enjoyed it so far.
“Of course I have ambitions and it would be nice to play in Super League again, but to have any sort of chance I need to be playing well for Sheffield and that’s my main aim at the moment.”
*Main picture: ADC Photography