Rugby League Expert & Columnist @RLBarrieMc10
Barrie McDermott: Rob Burrow's name on League Leaders' Shield would be fitting honour
Last Updated: 31/12/19 5:09pm
Sky Sports rugby league expert Barrie McDermott explains why he believes naming Super League's League Leaders' Shield after Rob Burrow would be a fitting way for the sport to honour his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate…
When Rob Burrow first came into Rhinos' set-up, he was a very young boy - he still has boyish features now.
I looked at his size and his frame, and thought 'this kid is not going to be durable enough, they're going to run at him and they're going to target him, they're going to look to run over the top of him and expose the size element of his game.'
But when I trained with him and against him, and when I played with him I realised he used that to his advantage - and the biggest thing Rob had was his fearless attitude, courage and bravery.
As a player, he was very assured, instinctive and reactive, and could see things then act on them in a blink of an eye. For me the greatest Grand Final try of all time was scored by Rob Burrow in 2011, when he ran through the St Helens defence when the game was in the balance and tipped it in favour of his side.
He's consistently done that throughout his career, and used what many would view as a vulnerability and turned it into a strength and an asset.
As a man and as a person, he doesn't seek the limelight or want to be front and centre, so that 122m x 68m rugby league field is his sanctum and where he gets to express himself. He earned respect on that field and took it forward into his life.
I'd say he's shy as well, but I know having been on the end of some of his pranks and banter he can hold his own in any changing room or team environment.
The response from the sporting world as a whole since Rob was diagnosed with motor neurone disease says two things. One is how much he is respected, revered, admired and most of all loved for what he has done in the game.
He doesn’t seek the limelight or want to be front and centre, so that rugby field is his sanctum and where he gets to express himself. He earned respect on that field and took it forward into his life.
Barrie McDermott on Rob Burrow
But it also shows to me how much more we need to do about MND. It's a horrible, horrendous disease and when it affects somebody it really strikes a chord. As his mate, I'm learning more each day about how it affects the people it strikes and those around them.
It was a really helpful meeting which Leeds director of rugby Kevin Sinfield set up between Rob and former Scotland rugby union star Doddie Weir, another man who is unique in his appearance. Doddie is 6ft 6in and Rob is 5ft 5in, and you couldn't meet two more polar opposites on the physical scale.
But the thing they have in common is their strength of character and the determination not to let MND prevent them from trying to make a difference. Because of their profile, they can raise funds which will pay for research and, hopefully, help find a cure.
While it is about those two, they will also look at it as doing the greater good, for people who can't find a massive movement. They're doing it just as much for ordinary people who are builders, teachers, shelf-stackers and humble housewives.
There are significant people in the history of rugby league like Steve Prescott, Lance Todd and Harry Sunderland, who have made a difference and changed the way we think about the sport, who have awards named after them and quite right too.
Knowing Rob really well, he'll probably wonder why there should be an accolade named after him, but I think it's absolutely perfect, fitting and right that we look at naming the League Leaders' Shield after a man who has won it three times and allow him to be part of that celebration of achievement for as long as he wants.
Last night we went through the £2️⃣0️⃣0️⃣,0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ mark for Rob Burrow, here’s a special message from @RLBarrieMc10 to say thank you to you all for generosity READ MORE HERE ➡️https://t.co/qWnEDxoZpm— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) December 29, 2019
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There are always questions over why it has little meaning or value to players and fans, but can you imagine the captain of whichever the winning the team is receiving the Rob Burrow League Leaders Shield from the man himself on the point that they've shown how consistently they have played throughout that year?
Rob presenting that trophy is absolutely the right thing to do and the fact he's not just a Leeds Rhinos player but a rugby league representative means whether it's a Yorkshire team, a north-west team or even a trans-Atlantic team receiving the Shield, it will add weight, significance and value.
His legacy as a rugby league player - let alone a man - is someone who continually fought against adversity, worked incredibly hard his whole career, was brave and courageous, showed consistency throughout his career and delivered on the big stage. For me, that's what the League Leaders' Shield should signify.
Why not do it sooner rather than later, whether it goes to a public vote or a group of people within Super League. This step in itself would promote awareness about MND, encourage people to learn more about the disease and hopefully encourage people to donate to the fund set up to raise money for both Rob's family and MND research.
But I don't think you will find many against us choosing to name the Shield after someone who is held in such high regard, such a positive role model and in a way will serve as a continual reminder of his legacy on and off the field.
On that note, Rob and Jamie Jones-Buchanan have a shared benefit match between Leeds and Bradford Bulls on Sunday, January 12 at Headingley. It would be massive, in a game which has no league points at stake, to get a full house there.
It's a perfect chance for everybody from the rugby league family in general who would like to show their support to get to that game and rubber-stamp the fact we're a game which cares about people, which has really shone out for me in the past couple of weeks.