Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow ready to show trademark grit and tenacity once again as he battles MND - Dave Craven

0
Have your say

IT does not seem two minutes ago since everyone was waxing lyrical about Rob Burrow as the Leeds Rhinos legend retired from the game he had graced so long.

READ MORE – Stricken Rob Burrow: I’ll fight this to see my kids grow up

Rob Burrow, pictured during the Super League Grand Final victory over Castleford Tigers in 2017.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Rob Burrow, pictured during the Super League Grand Final victory over Castleford Tigers in 2017. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It was, in fact, two years ago. But given his brilliance on the field, and the way the diminutive scrum-half enthralled so many, there has been a desire ever since to find an excuse to revisit his countless magical moments.

Nobody, though, wanted to do so in these circumstances.

Yesterday’s heartbreaking news that Burrow has been diagnosed with the utterly brutal Motor Neurone Disease (MND)struck just like one of his trademark sniping runs: it pierced through everyone in the sport and beyond.

Burrow is just 37-years-old and the father of three children all under the age of eight.

Anyone who had the pleasure of witnessing this brilliant player will know all of that dazzling skill was always underpinned by the courage of a lion.

Dave Craven

READ MORE - Leeds Rhinos fans raise more than £50,000 in one day to help club legend Rob Burrow in his battle with MND

READ MORE - Rob Burrow vows to fight motor neurone duisease all the way

It is hard to imagine just how shattering the diagnosis is on him and all his family and friends, of which there are many.

Clearly, Burrow will need all the help and support possible for the fight ahead and there is no doubt he will get it.

Rob Burrow scores his memorable opening try for Leeds Rhinos against St Helens in 2011 at Old Trafford. Picture: Steve Riding.

Rob Burrow scores his memorable opening try for Leeds Rhinos against St Helens in 2011 at Old Trafford. Picture: Steve Riding.

The rugby league world has demonstrated as much already, coming together to offer one of the sport’s – not just Super League’s – greatest ever players their best wishes and setting up fundraising events to support his family.

MND is a cruel, debilitating disease which affects the brain and spinal cord and is incurable; life expectancy from diagnosis differs between sufferers but is often between just two and three years. The disease attacks the nerves that control movement so, eventually, muscles no longer work and it takes no prisoners.

It was reassuring to see in Burrow’s televised interviews last night that he is ready to fight and carry on as normal as much as he can.

But there was no need for such reassurance; anyone who had the pleasure of witnessing this brilliant player will know all of that dazzling skill was always underpinned by the courage of a lion.

Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow lift the Super League Grand Final Tro at Old Trafford in 2017.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow lift the Super League Grand Final Tro at Old Trafford in 2017. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The smallest player in Super League history standing at just five foot five inches, Burrow had such determination and resilience on the field that his slight stature was left irrelevant.

An inspiration to so many youngsters, it is hard to comprehend how many people he will have helped fall in love with the game.

Undoubtedly, Burrow – who won eight Grand Finals and amassed nearly 500 games for Rhinos – has delivered some of the most memorable moments in Super League history.

His mesmerising individual effort in the 2011 Old Trafford win over St Helens remains arguably the greatest Grand Final try ever.

During his career, Burrow was always so giving with his time; a two-minute interview could easily turn into 10 and there were never any complaints.

One of the nicest people you could meet in the sport and such an affable character, you know he is well-set to battle on.

He has all the grit and tenacity you would expect from someone who hails from Castleford.

Moreover, clearly he is already being helped by so many people, not least Rhinos director of rugby and former team-mate Kevin Sinfield as well as Doddie Weir, the former Scotland and British Lions lock who has been living with the disease since 2017.

Burrow, who has coached the Rhinos academy side for the last two years but will take charge of the new reserve team in 2020, is keen to work with Weir, too, in raising awareness of MND.

That is key in helping eventually find a cure and there have been a number of other sportsmen who have suffered from the disease in the past.

Another scrum-half – Joost van der Westhuizen who won the 1995 Rugby World Cup with the Springboks – lost his battle at the age of 49 almost three years ago.

Legendary former Leeds United manager Don Revie was diagnosed with the disease much later in life and died aged 61 in 1989, while former Bradford City captain and Liverpool star Stephen Darby is currently battling it having been diagnosed at the age of just 29.

Sinfield said: “This has been devastating news and heart breaking for Rob and his young family.

“The thoughts of everyone at Leeds Rhinos and, I am sure, throughout the Rugby League family is with Rob and his wife Lindsey.

“Throughout his career, Rob overcame the odds to become a legend of the game and I know he will tackle this challenge with the exact same positive determination.”

Of that there is no doubt and everyone is behind him.