Burrow makes the world of difference to MND community in a year

Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow achieved many incredible feats on the Rugby League field however the past year has seen him surpass all those accolades with the incredible bravery he and his family have shown with his public battle with Motor Neurone Disease.

It is just a year today that he took the step to publicly announce his diagnosis to the media and has never shied away from the brutal realities of the condition.

The public out pouring of support for Burrow over the Christmas and New Year period was incredible with messages and donations to support Rob and his young family flooding in from across the globe. The initial effort culminated in an incredible day at Emerald Headingley less than a month later when Jamie Jones-Buchanan shared his testimonial game with Burrow. A full house at Emerald Headingley was there to see legends return to the field one last time including Burrow with the pre-season friendly beamed around the country via Sky Sports.

Such was the reaction to the match and the appearance of Burrow back on the famous turf that it gained national media attention. Sally Nugent from BBC Breakfast was immediately in contact with the club to arrange for Rob to meet up with Doddie Weir and Stephen Darby to talk about their own battles with MND which continued the journey for Rob and his drive to get the nation talking about the disease for more support and research for everyone in the MND community.

Prior to the shutdown following the global pandemic the sporting world came together to show their support for Rob with a glittering gala dinner at Emerald Headingley with England football manager Gareth Southgate joining fellow stars from the round ball game in Gemma Bonner, Stuart Pearce and Micah Richards on the night along with Leeds’ own world Champion Josh Warrington and stars from the 15 man code in Kenny Logan, Will Greenwood and Jason Robinson.

Lockdown did not stop Burrow’s campaigning. As well as regular appearances on BBC Breakfast, he used his platform to try and help vulnerable people across the country by asking people to follow the guidelines and support the NHS.

The fundraising effort to support Rob and the MND Association continued throughout the summer. Kevin Sinfield kicked things off with a solo marathon (more of him later!) and Jamie Peacock completed a gruelling ultra marathon in horrendous conditions to play his part.

Another former Rhinos number 10 and a good friend of Rob, Barrie McDermott came up with a unique way of raising funds but launching a racing club that people can join to support the MND Association but also have some fun along the way by joining a team of supporters for Burrow Seven.

Burrow was in the public eye in October once again when the BBC broadcasted the incredibly emotional and powerful, Rob Burrow: My Year with MND in the week leading up to the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley. The programme was watched by over 3 million viewers, many of whom had no knowledge of Rob or MND beforehand. The week ended with the new Rhinos number seven, Luke Gale, lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley in honour of Rob, whose shirt was hung in the dressing room at the heart of the team, many of whom Rob had coached in their formative years in the Academy.

The sport of Rugby League once again showed their love and support for one of their own throughout the season. Wigan Warriors and Hull FC both dedicated shirts to raise funds for Burrow whilst the Grand Final and Sky Sports coverage in particular in November was dedicated to the man who won eight Grand Finals in his career, winning the Harry Sunderland Award twice and scoring the greatest ever Grand Final try back in 2011.

The year culminated with an incredible fundraising and public awareness effort by Kevin Sinfield. Sinfield brought together a team of six to set out on a challenge to run seven marathons in seven days, each in under 4 hours. The original target was to raise £77,777 in honour of Rob and his famous squad number. However, the rest is history. Not only did Sinfield complete the challenge, he has now raised over £2.5m and you can still donate by clicking here. Sinfield’s appearance on BBC Breakfast the day after his final marathon was watched by over 2.2 million viewers and has sparked a wave of fundraising inspired by his efforts and support for Rob. You can sign up now for the Team MND 7 in 7 Challenge for 2021, click here for more details.