At a time when the country is coming together like never before, in unprecedented times, Rugby League players, coaches, officials and fans are amongst the thousands who are joining the fight against Covid19. In our new series ‘Front Row Heroes’, we’re on a mission to find out more about and celebrate Rugby League’s real life heroes on the front line of the efforts. This week we start with Super League referee Chris Kendall, who has been volunteering for both the NHS, and local groups.

With all rugby league suspended since March, full time referee Kendall has been keeping himself busy doing his bit within his local area of Kirklees;

“Mainly at the minute I’m delivering shopping for neighbours in the most part, the NHS services has been probably a little bit quieter than I thought it was going to be, but I’m doing quite a bit for Kirklees council, that’s doing shopping for neighbours and I’ve spoken to a few people on the phone, just giving trying to give them so normality in their lives.”

As the country continues in lockdown, Kendall is one of many who have had everyday life disrupted and found themselves furloughed, this has presented an opportunity however, he says, to give back to the community;

“Both me and my Girlfriend felt a bit useless, we were both furloughed around a similar time, we had loads of time on our hands. You see some of the hard work that the frontline staff and the keyworkers are doing, putting their lives at risk every day when they go to work, we thought it was the least we could do.”

Rugby League is no stranger to looking after it’s own, or rallying at hard times, the work of charities such as Rugby League Cares and the Steve Prescott foundation have been prominent pillars of support for people for some time, and the response to Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow’s diagnoses with Motor Neurone Disease in December was a poignant reminder of the working class ethos of this sport, and it’s no surprise to Kendall that so many from the Rugby League community have put themselves forward to help;

“Rugby League as a product is amazing, but I think what makes rugby league is the people involved in it. There’s more and more stories coming out at the minute of what Players, Coaches, Chief Executives and Administrators are doing, and it shows yet again what the rugby league community is like.”

The break in sport comes at the end of what had been a pretty momentous 6 months for Kendall, having refereed the Betfred Super League Grand Final in October, and taken charge of international matches at the end of 2019, and whilst being unpopular maybe an occupational hazard of a professional referee, he is enjoying being greeted with smiles when out helping in the efforts against the pandemic;

“It’s weird, the shoe is the on the other foot really, I’m used to being the pantomime villain, but it’s nice to see people smiling at you rather than doing other things towards you!”

 In tomorrow’s edition of Front Row Heroes, we talk to St Helens and Great Britain Legend Paul Sculthrope, who is undertaking a remarkable charity challenge in aid of the Steve Prescott Foundation