JUST like the rest of the population, battling on during a tough four months in a world turned upside down due to COVID-19, Saints full back Lachlan Coote has tried to pull out positives from a long time in lockdown.

Although, just like the supporters who cheer and sing his name, Coote has not been immune from the challenges that the effects of the pandemic has thrown up; the worry, insecurity, the monotony of each day melding into the next…..and the home schooling.

The return of Super League, admittedly without the crowd noise, has brought a degree of normality and routine for the players, 140 days after the final hooter sounded at the Jungle and the sporting world stopped.

Coote reflected on his longest break from the playing field since taking up rugby league as a boy, the highs and the lows.

“The days rolled into one – but I turned into a school-teacher and full time father.

“I tried to look at that as a positive – getting that time together with the kids and being with them 24/7.

“It was difficult at times but we got through it,” he said.

Father to a son Bailey, aged five, and a younger daughter Mia, Coote joined parents up and down the land engaged in home learning – something that brought back memories of his own school days.

His words will resonate in households across St Helens borough, who have got used to lesson plans and ‘Show my homework’.

“The activities were great, but the maths and the writing didn’t go too well,” he said.

“It was funny really because it just reminded me of myself at school because I never looked forward to the maths, the writing and the spelling parts.

“But any time there was an activity or sports I was in on it.”

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Coote, who turned 30 in April, spelled out the difficulties that lockdown has presented to elite sportsmen, used to a strong team camaraderie, professional supervision and instruction, and top-notch facilities.

Like all members of a team game, the toughest part was being detached from the 30-odd other blokes as he undertook his fitness drills, particularly during the height of lockdown.

The Scottish and Great Britain international number one said: “We still had to train and keep up fitness on our own.

“And the biggest challenge of training alone was actually getting up and going to do it.

“Normally we wake up, get ready to go to training and are told what to do all day; our schedules are put in front of us to do every day.

“During lockdown we didn’t have all of that and we had to think of our own programmes and get the time to do it with the limited resources that we had.

“I just had a couple of dumbbell weights and some bands. I also had to run down to my local park and do a few fitness drills there.

“It was challenging at times – although it gave me the opportunity to make up my own drills, it was a constant battle with myself to go and do it.”

St Helens Star:

Following weeks of uncertainty, and protracted discussions among all parties, as soon as the clubs had a restart date plans began to be put in place to get those players back into training, whilst at the same time adhering to the stringent guidelines.

After a break significantly longer than a standard off season, the players are well-rested, but in need of some cobweb-blasting sessions and refreshers on their matchday plays. And then there is getting used to the heavy contact again.

“We stuck to the guidelines of keeping our distance and were not doing contact at first. But having groups back training together with people running beside you made it much easier to do the fitness training.

“We have had limited time, but they have done an awesome job to try and fit everything in with the time that we have got.

“We have had to make sure all of our basic skills are up to date because we have not been able to touch the ball within a team environment.

“Getting back to all those basics, the skill base of the game and making sure everyone is in sync with what the game plan is.

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“There are some restrictions on contact but getting those knocks back in are much needed before we take the field.

“It is not ideal - a two-week build up - but the staff have done an awesome job to get us ready.

“They have done an awesome job to get the game back up and running again even if it is sadly without the fans.”

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The game without fans, for the time being, is a price that has to be paid to get the players back on to the field and some money coming back into the sport via television and sponsorship.

Rugby league in the UK, not the most cash-rich of sports at the best of times, has been treading perilously close to the precipice at times during these troubling and turbulent times.

In that way, the game is no different to countless businesses and occupations throughout the land, as Coote reflected: “It was worrying at times – not knowing what was going on and how long it was going to go on for and how much it affected the game.

“Everyone is out of pocket and everyone is struggling and that is what we had to accept.

“The whole world is struggling.

“Even if you look at the NRL – it is one of the main games over there and you see how much they got affected by it.

“To see how Super League have reacted and how we have gone about it, they have been a credit to how they handled it.

“The Saints club have been awesome. They have been upfront and honest every step of the way – and you can’t argue with that.

“Everyone has been on board with what the club has presented.

“It has been a stressful time in that sense, but great that the club has been so supportive.”