IN the not too distant past Chris Atkin was a PE teacher at Wade Deacon High School in Widnes and, just six months ago, he was playing for Swinton Lions at Rochdale Hornets.
However, now he is preparing for life in Super League with Hull KR and hopefully forming a half-back partnership with legendary former Great Britain star Danny McGuire.
Rovers announced in June highly-rated schemer Atkin would join them for 2018 but, when Championship strugglers Swinton hit money issues, they paid a fee the following month to sign him with immediate effect.
That meant he got a taste of the action early and played his part in Hull KR’s successful promotion bid via the Qualifiers.
McGuire joined after leading Leeds Rhinos to another Grand Final glory but with coach Tim Sheens still yet to recruit another half-back, Atkin is battling youngster Matty Marsh for the role when Super League starts against Wakefield Trinity.
For the 25-year-old, it has been a long road to get to this point.
The reasons why weren’t necessarily the best with Swinton in financial difficulties but it gave me a taste of playing at that higher level and intensity. It settled a few nerves and it’s not as daunting a task now. I’m looking forward to what’s to come with KR.Chris Atkin
“I’ve been through a lot in the background, like getting released by Widnes as a kid,” he said.
“That was probably the best thing for me, though; I wasn’t pushing for a starting shirt and it was best I went away and started to enjoy the game again. But straight away my first thought, if I’m honest, was my Super League chance had gone.
“I went playing rugby union for a couple of months and then started playing league again at university.
“That helped me get my confidence back a little bit but there was never any expectation that I’d start playing for a club.
“Then, though, it was just one step at a time. I’m grateful to Swinton for giving me that chance; playing in that Championship it is a good league and it certainly helped me develop as a player and as a person.
“Now it’s moved forward that I have got the chance to play Super League. Four or five years ago there was a glimpse of it but no more. Now it’s three weeks away.”
And what about the prospect of linking with eight-time Super League winner McGuire?
“It was a little surreal at first,” he admitted, ahead of tomorrow’s derby, a testimonial game for Hull FC hooker Danny Houghton.
“He’s been great coming in and working with myself and Matty Marsh – two youngish half-backs still learning the game at this top level.
“He’s played a good part in this pre-season helping us learn the game and pick those little things out to improve.
“Tim has spoken to me and Matty about making the most of our chances. We both want to be starting but it’s healthy competition and we know we each have to take our chance when it comes.”
Atkin featured in all but one of Rovers’ Qualifiers last term, including facing Super League sides Leigh, Catalans and Warrington.
“It was massive to make the decision to come in early,” he said.
“The reasons why weren’t necessarily the best with Swinton in financial difficulties but it gave me a taste of playing at that higher level and intensity. It settled a few nerves and it’s not as daunting a task now. I’m looking forward to what’s to come with KR.”