A RUGBY league player considered by his teammates to be ‘Mr Angry’ on the field is about to tackle coronavirus head-on as a fast-tracked nurse.

Swinton Lions prop forward Lewis Hatton, who came through the ranks at Clock Face Miners, St Helens, Salford Red Devils and Warrington Wolves, is in the final six months of his nursing studies and among thousands in a similar position who have opted into the Government scheme to provide emergency support at an NHS hospital during the Covid-19 crisis.

With the pandemic forcing rugby league matches and all sport into a period of suspension, the 23-year-old can focus on ‘doing his bit’ on the frontline in the heat of an altogether different battle while also maintaining his fitness levels with the help of a training set-up in the garage of the Astley home he shares with girlfriend Lyndsey.

“We received an email from the University of Chester saying that students in the final six months of their undergraduates programme, like myself and thousands more students, were being asked to opt into an arrangement whereby you move into clinical practice during this emergency period,” said Lewis, who grew up in St Helens and attended St Cuthbert’s High School.

“We still have to complete our education, including our final assessments when the pandemic settles.

“I weighed up the options and jumped at the chance really. It’s nothing different to what we’ve been training for, it’s just come a little bit early, so I wanted to help out.

“We’re still waiting on further information from the university regarding deployment, but we had some Covid-19 training this week at university and a bit of a brief-in afterwards.

“They’ve asked for information, including where we live and where we’ve predominantly had placements in the past, and I think they’re going to weigh things up and deploy us hopefully somewhere local.

“My placements have been mainly with North West Boroughs Healthcare, around Warrington and St Helens.

“I’m specialising in learning disabilities but with the situation that’s happening my placement might not be learning disabilities specific, but we’re all trained in the same skill set.

“It’s a bit of a nerve-wracking experience but it’s what I’ve been training for over three years. It’s just that it’s come at a more difficult and challenging situation in time.”

The often brutal and merciless sport of rugby league is a different world to providing care but Lewis explained why nursing is a perfect fit for him.

“If you asked the lads at Swinton they’ll tell you that I’m the angriest man in rugby league,” he said.

“But that’s just on the pitch.

“It’s like a bit of a switch that triggers as soon as I walk out on to the pitch, and then as soon as I come off they’d say I’m the softest, mildest rugby league player going.

“I think it’s the way I’ve been brought up.

“I’ve got a good family and they’re all very caring. A lot of my mum’s side of the family have been involved in healthcare.

“My family’s all behind me.

“My mum (Ann Marie) works as a midwife for Bridgewater NHS Trust and she’s backing me. She’s still in work, looking after people.

“And my girlfriend is still in work as a physio for East Lancashire NHS Trust.”

The healthcare route was always likely then.

“I was always into biology and sport,” said Lewis.

“Then I got a job as a residential support worker for a company called Bright Futures in Warrington.

“I spent a year and a bit there, looking after people with learning disabilities and autism.

“I really enjoyed it, and there was a lot of nurse involvement with the patients and service users, so I saw the impact they were having and decided to give it a go.”

While on a match day Lewis knows exactly what’s coming when he heads into action, this is a different field.

“I’ve no idea what I’m walking into, until I find out the placement that I’m going to get,” he said.

“One of the main things is that the staffing levels are going to be massively reduced.

“I’m still working with North West Boroughs as a healthcare assistant and there’s so many people off with symptoms and underlying health conditions, so where I get deployed could be understaffed and we’ll probably get thrown in at the deep end.

“But I just want to do my bit and help out.”

Although he is keeping on top of his fitness levels for when the Championship season resumes, he would rather be training with his Swinton teammates.

“We’re being sent homework from our strength and conditioning coach at Swinton,” he said.

“I’ve set up a little garage gym to keep ticking over and I keep getting the gym sessions in.

“My girlfriend’s getting pretty annoyed with me, having to keep passing a rugby ball to me.

“Training on my own has been alright. But I’m missing seeing the lads in the team environment and playing rugby at the weekend.

“We had a very successful second half to last season and we’d got off to an alright start this time around.

“We beat Whitehaven and then had a few games called off because of the weather.

“Then we had a couple of tough losses but produced decent performances so this has all come at a bit of a rubbish time because we were doing ok.”

Lewis is in his second season at Swinton, having joined from Rochdale Hornets where he was player of the year in 2018 after earning his first professional contract.

He had been on the books at Super League clubs before that, spending two years in the scholarship programme at Saints and two years in their academy before featuring in the Salford under 19s set-up in 2016 and then with Warrington Wolves Reserves in 2017.

But it all started close to home.

“My dad (Andy) took me to play for Clock Face Miners at under sevens, and I played there until under 15s under the same coach, Damian Grimes.

“I played second row growing up, and a bit of loose forward.

“It’s only in the last few years I’ve been playing in the front row. I’m probably the shortest prop in the league!”