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Rob Burrow obituary: Rugby league icon and motor neurone disease campaigner

Rob Burrow has died at the age of 41; he was part of eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cup and three World Club Challenge triumphs with Leeds Rhinos; Burrow was diagnosed with MND in 2019 and dedicated himself to raising awareness and money for others affected

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Rugby league legend Rob Burrow has died at the age of 41, Leeds Rhinos have announced

Rob Burrow may have only stood at 5ft 5in tall, but during his life he was a towering figure both on and off the rugby league field.

Born in Pontefract in 1982, Burrow made his start in the sport with community club Featherstone Lions and was signed to the club he would spend his entire professional career with, Leeds Rhinos, as an academy player in 1999.

He would make his professional debut for the Rhinos as an 18-year-old in an 18-16 defeat at home to Hull FC in April 2001, and his talent was recognised in that first season by being named as Super League's young player of the year.

Proving equally adept as both a scrum-half and a hooker, Burrow would go on to become a key member of Leeds' 'Golden Generation' which swept all before them.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ - 07/10/2017 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League Grand Final - Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos - Old Trafford, Manchester, England - Rob Burrow.
Image: Burrow won eight Super League Grand Finals during a distinguished career with Leeds

His first of eight Super League Grand Final triumphs came playing off the interchange bench in 2004 and the following year he was among the try-scorers as the Rhinos claimed World Club Challenge glory with a 39-32 victory over Australia's NRL champions Canterbury Bulldogs.

Burrow's influential role in Leeds' 2007 Grand Final triumph over St Helens would see him earn the Harry Sunderland Trophy for player of the match, and he started in the 2008 and 2009 triumphs in the Old Trafford showpiece as well.

Arguably the most iconic moment of his career came in the 2011 Grand Final though, with his stunning solo try setting Leeds on their way to a 32-16 victory over Saints. His night was capped by him joining an elite group of players to be awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy twice as well.

PICTURE BY VAUGHN RIDLEY/SWPIX.COM...Rugby League - Super League Grand Final 2011 - St Helens Saints v Leeds Rhinos - Old Trafford, Manchester, England - 08/10/11...Leeds Rob Burrow.
Image: Burrow's trophy-laden Leeds career included two Challenge Cup titles and three World Club Challenge trophies

Back-to-back Challenge Cup triumphs at Wembley in 2014 and 2015 were followed by two more Grand Final successes in 2015 and 2017, with Burrow calling time on his playing career following the last of those.

In total, he made 492 appearances for Leeds, scoring 196 tries and kicking 157 goals. At international level, he was capped five times by Great Britain and was in England's squads for both the 2008 and 2013 Rugby League World Cups.

Along with being part of eight Super League Grand Final wins, two Challenge Cup triumphs and three World Club Challenge success, Burrow was named in the Super League Dream Team in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

After hanging up his boots, he took a coaching position with the Rhinos, but was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December 2019.

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Rob Burrow and his family took over Sky Sports coverage of Leeds Rhinos against Huddersfield Giants to raise awareness of motor neurone disease in June 2023.

He made an emotional final playing appearance at Headingley in January 2020 alongside several other members of Leeds' 'Golden Generation' in a pre-season match against their old rivals Bradford Bulls.

Following his diagnosis, Burrow became a relentless campaigner for MND causes, dedicating himself to raising awareness for those affected by the disease and money towards building a specialist Motor Neurone Disease Care Centre in Leeds.

Kevin Sinfield (left), and Rob Burrow have been made CBEs (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the New Year Honours list, for services to Motor Neurone Disease awareness.
Image: Kevin Sinfield (left) and Rob Burrow have raised millions of pounds to help those affected by motor neurone disease

Among those supporting his efforts was former team-mate Kevin Sinfield, who completed three marathon challenges to raise funds towards MND causes.

The pair were both honoured in the 2021 Birthday Honours and 2024 New Year Honours for their charitable efforts and services to the MND community.

It was also announced in February 2024 that the Super League Grand Final award for player of the match would be renamed after Burrow.

Burrow is survived by his wife Lindsey, and their three children Macy, Maya and Jackson.

More information on the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Appeal

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