Rob Burrow: Kevin Sinfield, Prince William and TV stars pay tribute to rugby league star after MND battle

There has been an outpouring of grief for Rob Burrow following the announcement of the death of a man who was a rugby league legend on the pitch and a hero off it.

Leeds Rhinos players past and present, fans, royalty and celebrities have paid tribute to the ‘forever number 7’ player who has changed lives and will continue to save lives with his heroic charitable efforts.

Rob’s best friend and former captain Kevin Sinfield, who has supported Rob since his motor neurone disease diagnosis nearly five years ago, said Rob was “the toughest and bravest man I have ever met”.

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Kevin shared his love and thoughts with Rob’s wife Lindsey, his children and to his parents Geoff and Irene.

Rob Burrow has passed away aged 41Rob Burrow has passed away aged 41
Rob Burrow has passed away aged 41

He said: “Today was the day that I hoped would never come. The world has lost a great man and a wonderful friend to so so many. You fought so bravely until the end and became a beacon of hope and inspiration, not only for the MND community but for all those who saw and heard your story.”

Kevin helped Rob raise almost £15 million for MND research and support.

Today (Jun 3) also marks the day when the first spade hits the soil at the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease at Seacroft Hospital in Leeds - which Rob wanted to continue no matter what.

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Kevin added: “The last four and a half years you showed the world what living and loving looked like and this was always done with the biggest smile on your face. I will miss you my little mate.”

Thousands pay respect to Rob BurrowThousands pay respect to Rob Burrow
Thousands pay respect to Rob Burrow

Prince William, the Prince of Wales, described Rob as “a legend of rugby league.”

The MND Association said Burrow was a “passionate advocate” for people with the “brutal” disease, and William said that the former England international had a “huge heart”.

In a personally signed message on X, formerly Twitter, William said: “He taught us, ‘in a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream.’ Catherine and I send our love to Lindsey, Jackson, Maya and Macy.”

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also paid tribute on social media.

“Rob was an inspiration to everyone who met him or who heard his incredible story. I was honoured to spend some time with him last year,” the Prime Minister tweeted, saying he “drove a fundraising campaign that supports vital new research improving the care for others”.

Burrow’s former team, Leeds Rhinos, said he “passed away peacefully” at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, near his home, surrounded by his family, after becoming ill earlier this week.

On behalf of the Burrow family, the rugby league club thanked the hospital’s staff for “their compassion and caring for Rob in his final days”.

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In January, William surprised Burrow and his former teammate Kevin Sinfield by making them CBEs during a visit to Headingley Stadium, paying tribute to their “phenomenal” efforts in raising funds for motor neurone disease.

Burrow spearheaded a £6.8 million appeal for Leeds Hospitals Charity, where he received care for a state-of-the-art care centre for people living with motor neurone disease.

Radio presenter Rich Williams paid his respects and encouraged people to donate to the appeal.

He posted on X: “Devastating & heartbreaking day. The #RobBurrow Centre for MND is around £1m short of the £6m needed. The last bit of fundraising is always the hardest. So along with tweeting about Rob, please donate, big or small, and hopefully today’s awful news can catapult it over the line.”

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Leeds Hospitals Charity said Burrow was “an inspiration, not only to the people of Yorkshire, but the entire nation, and across the world”, adding that he spread joy with his “infectious smile and unwavering sense of humour”.

Burrow spent his entire rugby league career with Leeds Rhinos and helped them win eight Super League titles, and represented Great Britain.

Emotional well-wishers turned up at the club’s Headingley Stadium on Sunday to pay their respects, leaving flowers, shirts and other tributes.

After being diagnosed with motor neurone disease two years after retiring in 2017, the MND Association said Burrow “used every opportunity to raise awareness of the disease”.

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BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugent, who covered Burrow’s life after his diagnosis, remembered him as the “smallest player on the pitch. But a giant of a man”.

Burrow was made an MBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours for his contribution to rugby league and for raising awareness of motor neurone disease.

Leeds Rhinos said in a statement on Sunday: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our beloved son, husband, father, brother and friend.

“Rob has always been a true inspiration throughout his life whether that was on the rugby league field or during his battle with MND (motor neurone disease).

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“He never allowed others to define what he could achieve and believed in his own ability to do more.

“For those who knew Rob throughout his life, his determination and spirit in the face of MND over the last four and a half years came as no surprise.

“Rob never accepted that he couldn’t do something. He just found his way of doing it better than anyone else.

“He will continue to inspire us all every day. In a world full of adversity. We must dare to dream.”

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The chief executive of Leeds Hospitals Charity, Esther Wakeman, said: “We are heartbroken to hear that our patron, Rob Burrow, has sadly died.

“Even when his own voice failed him, he gave a voice to the entire MND community, giving people hope and spreading joy with his infectious smile and unwavering sense of humour.”

Following his diagnosis, Burrow raised awareness of MND through the BBC documentaries Rob Burrow: My Year With MND (2020) and Rob Burrow: Living with MND (2022), which were both shortlisted at the National Television Awards in the authored documentary category.

Broadcaster Dan Walker, who interviewed Burrow when he was a presenter on BBC Breakfast, said the athlete “inspired millions”.

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“He was the little fella who made a massive impact on the pitch and an even bigger one off it,” he said in a post on X.

“Rob Burrow taught us so much in the way he dealt with his MND diagnosis and inspired millions with his continued determination and desire to make a difference for others.

“Sending all my love to Lindsey and their kids, his sisters, his mum and dad and all those who will miss him so much.”

Former ITV Calendar anchor: “A giant of a man whose legacy will be far reaching. His inspirational approach to the most cruel of diseases was a wonder to behold. And that smile - I’ll never forget that smile. My heart goes out to Lindsey, Macy, Maya and Jackson and all his family. Sleep well my friend x.”

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Duncan’s former colleague TV presenter Christine Talbot is hosting the Yorkshire Choice Awards this Friday and Rob and Lindsey Burrow had been due to attend.

BBC Breakfast covered Burrow’s story extensively, including when former Leeds Rhino player Kevin Sinfield decided to run seven ultra-marathons in seven different cities across seven successive days in support of his friend.

In a social media post the programme wrote: “There is only one Rob Burrow CBE.

“A warrior. A legend. A family man.

“Our thoughts are with Rob’s family, all at Leeds Rhinos and everyone in the MND community with the news of his death aged 41.”

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Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins, who became a patron of the MND Association after her father Frank died from MND in 2015, wrote on X: “Just heartbreaking @Rob7Burrow has died after being diagnosed with MND back in 2019.

“A fellow @mndassoc patron, he was such a beautiful human being who did so much to raise awareness & funds for those with MND. He’ll be very much missed. Big love Lindsey, Macy, Maya & Jackson.”

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