Kevin Sinfield hails ‘incredible’ friend Rob Burrow as former Leeds Rhinos teammates are awarded CBEs

An incredible symbol of unity endures with a King's honour to celebrate strength and friendship above all.

Former Leeds Rhinos team-mates Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow are both awarded CBEs in the New Year Honours list, among a long list of major names to be recognised for their remarkable contributions to society.

England goalkeeper Mary Earps and Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis are also among the global stars of stage and screen to be honoured, while the Archbishop of Canterbury leads a list of those rewarded for their work on the King’s coronation.

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But for two rugby legends whose charity efforts across Yorkshire have touched the hearts of countless thousands, there is one friendship that stands out. The pair have now raised over £15m to combat Motor Neurone Disease through a series of challenges since Burrow was first diagnosed at the age of 37 back in 2019.

Launch of the Leeds Marathon 2023 with Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow photos by Simon DewhurstLaunch of the Leeds Marathon 2023 with Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow photos by Simon Dewhurst
Launch of the Leeds Marathon 2023 with Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow photos by Simon Dewhurst

As the awards are made public today the pair have spoken of their admiration for one another in the face of adversity, with Sinfield paying tribute to his "incredible" friend.

“The bravery and courage that Rob and his amazing family have shown as he is fighting MND is wonderful," he said. "To open the front door and to show the world what it’s like to live with it, he’s been incredible."

And Burrow, speaking of the honour to receive the award on behalf of the MND community, said he was "particularly pleased" to see his good friend also recognised.

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“I hope Kevin and I can go to the palace together in the New Year to enjoy another special occasion together again," he said.

Earlier this month, Sinfield completed his ‘7 in 7 in 7’ challenge in which he ran seven ultramarathons in seven cities across Britain and Ireland in seven days.

Now the coach has said he was “humbled” by his award which he dedicated to the MND community.

“I certainly was not expecting the award and this has never been about any recognition, this is about raising money and awareness for the MND community and for fighting for Rob so I feel very humbled by the whole thing,” he added.

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“I feel like I’m the one getting singled out but it’s been a real team effort from everybody. I can’t do it on my own. I need everybody to do their bit and it’s been an incredible journey.”

The King's honours, as a mark of thanks, singles out individuals whose work through the years has made a significant and remarkable contribution.

This year’s list includes a total of 1,227 recipients, nearly half of whom are women, and 13.8 per cent come from an ethnic minority background.

Across Yorkshire, dozens of recipients have been named from lollipop ladies to council leaders, academics and serving officers.

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On a national scale singer Dame Shirley Bassey, who has sold more than 135m records, is made a Companion of Honour for her services to music, while director and producer Sir Ridley Scott, whose works include Gladiator and Napoleon, is made a Knight Grand Cross.

Author Jilly Cooper was raised in Ilkley in West Yorkshire, and has spoken of her shock as she becomes a dame. She said: “I am absolutely and incredibly bowled over."I cannot believe I am a DBE, which in my case also stands for Delighted, Bewildered and Ecstatic.”

And in a long list that stretches the breadth of a nation there is a nod this year to notable names who played a significant role in the King's Coronation in May. Sir Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (RVO), having anointed and crowned Camilla and Charles.

In politics, meanwhile, former chancellor and home secretary Sajid Javid has been knighted.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is among those to pay tribute to award recipients. He said: “The New Year’s Honours List recognises the exceptional achievements of people across the country and those who have shown the highest commitment to selflessness and compassion. To all honourees, you are the pride of this country and an inspiration to us all.”

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