‘I’m fighting my biggest opponent yet... I will never give in’ vows Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow

EMERALD Headingley rose as one as its hero Rob Burrow returned once more.

It was almost as if the adoring Leeds Rhinos fans wanted to collectively lift him out of his wheelchair after he had been brought on to the hallowed turf where he graced so many games.

If only it were that easy.

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The smile was still there, though, beaming alongside his wife Lindsey Burrow as they received a long-lasting standing ovation.

Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow back at Headingley on Thursday night. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

And his famous spirit, so clearly, still shines through as the former England star continues his ongoing battle with motor neurone disease. Burrow, 38, was guest of honour ahead of last night’s Super League game against Huddersfield on the day he launched his autobiography Too Many Reasons to Live.

Speaking to the crowd via an eye-driven communication device, he spoke of “this special place where I had so many good memories” and how he hopes people will be inspired as he continues to try and raise awareness of the incurable disease.

“I hope people who read my story know they are not fighting their battles alone,” said Burrow, who played almost 500 games for the Blue and Amber and was given just two years to live when diagnosed with MND in December 2019.

“I will share many stories. I had a lot of adversity in my career despite the top surface looking all sunshine and rainbows.

Rob Burrow is helped toward the pitch by wife Lindsey before the match. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“I’m fighting my biggest opponent yet and I’m very determined to live a normal life no matter how debilitating it is.

“I hope people find it inspirational and no matter how it affects me I will never give in.”

Those last five words were met with rousing cheers from the Headingley faithful before Burrow continued: “It’s great to be back in this stadium – although it looks almost a completely different stadium.

“The pitch remains the same where I enjoyed the best time in my life and the bonds remain the same and will live with me forever.

Rob Burrow's children, Macy, Maya and Jackson bring out the match ball. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“I just want to say to the best fans in the world, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Burrow’s three children later delivered the matchball before kick-off, the ball almost bigger than his youngest – two-year-old Jackson who was clutching onto it with a fine two-handed grip.

Not for the last time last night, a rendition of “there’s only one Robbie Burrow” roared around the ground and – in the seventh minute indicating the number the eight-time Grand Final number wore with such pride – an image of him and his son was shown on the big screen and met with a minute’s applause.

Meanwhile, in the book, Burrow reveals how he feels the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated his decline.

“When the first lockdown kicked in, I was stuck indoors for weeks,” he writes.

“People couldn’t visit because we were concerned they might kill me.

“I loved spending so much time with Lindsey and the kids but I think lockdown accelerated my decline.

“Just like a lot of people, I found it too easy to sit on the sofa doing nothing.

“I can’t keep dodging the disease forever but it won’t stop me trying,” he says defiantly.