LEEDS RHINOS legend Rob Burrow has received “really positive” news about his motor neurone condition and cannot believe he will run out at Emerald Headingley with even more of his former colleagues this weekend.
The ex-Great Britain international, 37, was diagnosed with the debilitating and incurable disease last month and has been overwhelmed by support ever since.
Sunday’s game against Bradford Bulls – a joint-testimonial with fellow Rhinos star Jamie Jones-Buchanan – is a 21,000 sell-out and, remarkably, Sky Sports have revealed they will also broadcast the match live; it is the first time they have ever televised a benefit contest.
Retired duo Danny McGuire and Kylie Leuluai – who won countless trophies alongside Burrow during Leeds’s halcyon days – yesterday also confirmed they would line up with him in Rhinos colours once more after Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock announced earlier in the week they would get their boots back on.
With fund-raising edging ever closer to its £250,000 target, Burrow has been staggered by the “overwhelming” support he has received.
However, he has also been buoyed following Tuesday’s visit to see a specialist in Sheffield.
“I saw a Professor McDermott who’s a really top guy,” explained Burrow, who retired in 2017.
“To be fair, I never really had answers after being diagnosed; we had so many questions where people didn’t have the answers but he had them yesterday.
“We’re at the really early stages of it and some of the tests were borderline; he did confirm MND but he said I’m borderline.
“The average life span is three years but that’s usually in older people, and it doesn’t apply to me.
“He reckoned I could be alive for a few years yet which is good and hopefully it will be nearer 10.
“He spoke about some trial drugs as well so hopefully I’m eligible to pass and I’ll get on that. It was really positive news in the circumstances.”
Among “humbling” support from the likes of former England captain Wayne Rooney, the father-of-three added: “I’ve had a lady in Miami get in touch to say she was diagnosed at 37 and she’s now 56. I’m really positive and really determined. I’m not sure we’ll win the battle but I want to be here for a long time. I want to watch my kids grow up, and my headspace is really positive.
“It was really important to tell the kids and I wanted to do that before Christmas. We told them and the middle one Maya said: “What are you telling us that for dad, it’s boring!”
“So that was great. They know. And I want them to know. But that made it funny.”
Asked about how emotional it will be to walk out with so many of the ‘golden generation’ again on Sunday, Burrow said: “I was lucky enough to do that all my life.
“Some people don’t. So, to be able to walk out with them and wear the blue and amber again in front of a packed house, what better way to bow out?
“I never thought I’d play again but the fact that I get to do that again with the best of friends…
“They’ve really been there for me these last few weeks. Again, people like Jamie Peacock turning out… he’ll probably fall apart!
“If he’s willing to do that for me… Kev will be like normal. He’ll be match fit. I can’t describe what it feels like; it’ll be emotional.
“The day of the game will be great, to go on the pitch with some old friends. It’s really special, and I can’t believe Maggsy (McGuire) and Kylie are involved now too – especially Kylie!
“I’m really happy my two girls got to walk out with me (previously) but my little son Jackson is one now so he gets to do that as well.
“That means they’ll have all been on the pitch with me. That’s also a proud moment.”
The bond between the Rhinos players, who brought unprecedented glory to the club over the last 15 years, is clearly as strong as ever.
“You know a friend, don’t you, when you truly need help, “ offered Burrow.
“They don’t have to do anything for me but Jamie has come back from his skiing trip to play in the game.
“Kev is in Spain but said if I wanted him to go with me to see the specialist he’d fly back. They can’t do enough. Their lives are put on hold for me. I can’t thank them enough. The fact I’ll play again and pass to Kev – or give a hospital pass to Kylie! – is unbelievable. I can’t find the words, in particular for Kev; he’s been like a big brother.
“This will be one last time. Like the Beatles reunited…!
“You can’t get bonds like this. I know you have Sculthorpe, Long, Cunningham (at St Helens) and they’ll have their bond. But we had ours. We were lucky enough to win lots, stay tight and stay together for a long time.
“I hope they know I’d do it for them. Just when you think you couldn’t have any more happy memories, they go and do this. Unbelievable.”