Written by Callum Walker
Just a year after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), Rob Burrow has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2021 New Year Honours. That comes after an incredible journey in which the awareness and money raised for the MND Association has been astronomical.
To see the Rugby League community come together for one of the most inspiring stars to have played the game has been one of few positive moments in 2020. Former teammate Kevin Sinfield’s seven marathons in seven days put Rob and the disease on the map, raising millions of pounds as well as a greater appreciation of the debilitating nature of the illness.
It’s difficult to comprehend, but just three years ago, Burrow was part of the Leeds Rhinos side that won the Grand Final for a record eighth time – in fact, the diminutive figure had been a part of all eight.
That victory brought the curtain down on a phenomenal career, with this haul of winners’ rings adding to two Challenge Cups as well as two Harry Sunderland trophies for the man-of-the-match in the 2007 and 2011 Grand Finals.
But, the way in which Burrow took the game by the scruff of the neck, changed the limits to what a player can achieve. Standing at 5’5 and weighing no more than 70kg, he was hardly an intimidating figure on the field.
What he lacked in presence though, the livewire halfback/hooker made up for in heart. Always one to tackle above his weight and size, Burrow never took a step back on the field and that attitude is synonymous with his battle against MND.
He constantly refuses to give in and maintains the highest spirit possible – exactly how Burrow operated as a Leeds player. Against all adversity growing up, the pocket rocket made it to the big time despite constant concerns over his height.
It’s that warrior personality that has left a place in every person’s heart within the Rugby League fraternity. For what we were able to witness throughout his career was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. And, Burrow himself is one-in-a-million and the way he has attacked MND head-on is testament to his eminently strong character.