Rob Burrow dies, aged 41, after a battle with motor neurone disease

Rob Burrow was diagnosed with the condition in 2019 and has helped raise millions in fundraising to support people with ALS – PA/Zac Goodwin

Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain rugby league great Rob Burrow has died after a four-and-a-half year battle with motor neurone disease.

The Prince of Wales, who surprised Burrow this year by traveling to Leeds and presenting him with a CBE along with his wife Lindsey and their three children, paid heartfelt tribute to the 41-year-old, who became a prominent MND campaigner after his diagnosis .

Prince of Wales (R) – Rob Burrow dies at the age of 41 after a battle with motor neurone diseasePrince of Wales (R) – Rob Burrow dies, aged 41, after a battle with motor neurone disease

Prince of Wales (right) met Burrow in January to congratulate him on raising awareness of motor neurone disease – Getty Images /Phil Noble

Prince William described him as a “legend of Rugby League” with a “big heart”, adding: “He taught us ‘in a world of adversity we must dare to dream’.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also joined the tributes, saying Burrow “leaves an amazing legacy and my thoughts are with his friends and family.”

Burrow’s friend and fellow campaigner Kevin Sinfield later said in a statement released through the RFU: “Today was the day I hoped would never come. The world has lost a great man and a great friend to so many. You fought so bravely to the end and have become a beacon of hope and inspiration, not only for the MND community, but for all who have seen and heard your story.”

Sinfield sent his “love and thoughts” to Burrows’ family, adding: “You will continue to inspire me every day. I have lost a dear friend and I will never forget the special times we shared both on and off the field. I would always say you were pound for pound the strongest player I ever played with, but since your diagnosis you have been the toughest and bravest man I have ever met.

“Over the past four and a half years you have shown the world what living and loving looked like and it was always done with the biggest smile on your face. I will miss you, my little buddy.”

As a player, Burrow, who spent his entire career with Leeds Rhinos, won eight Super League Grand Finals, three World Club Challenges and two Challenge Cups.

Rob Burrow – Rob Burrow dies at the age of 41 after a battle with motor neurone diseaseRob Burrow – Rob Burrow dies at the age of 41 after a battle with motor neurone disease

Burrow (pictured playing for Leeds in 2005) played 492 games for the Rhinos – Getty Images/Jamie McDonald

However, Burrow had won hearts through his ALS awareness work while confined to a wheelchair and able to speak only with the help of voice technology.

After being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019, just two years after retiring from rugby, the MND Association said Burrow was “using every opportunity to raise awareness of the disease”.

Last year, at the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon, his great friend and former captain Sinfield pushed Burrow around the entire 26.2 mile circuit before lifting him from a specially adapted wheelchair and the pair completed the course together in an emotional conclusion in Headingley Stadium.

Kevin Sinfield carries Rob Burrow across the finish line of the 2023 Leeds MarathonKevin Sinfield carries Rob Burrow across the finish line of the 2023 Leeds Marathon

Kevin Sinfield carried Burrow across the finish line of the 2023 Leeds Marathon as the friends raised millions for MND research – PA/Danny Lawson

In January, Prince William surprised Burrow and Sinfield by appointing them CBE during a visit to the stadium, paying tribute to the couple’s “inspirational” efforts to raise awareness of the disease and raising £14 million for the MND community.

Burrow also received the 2022 Helen Rollason Award at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year ceremony for his relentless charity efforts.

Before becoming a CBE, Burrow was awarded an MBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honors for his contribution to rugby league and for raising awareness of MND.

Announcing his death on behalf of his family, Leeds Rhinos said he was “a true inspiration throughout his life, whether that was on the rugby league field or during his battle with MND”.

Burrow, who performed more than 400 times between 2001 and 2017, “will continue to inspire us all every day,” Leeds said.

A statement released by Leeds on behalf of Burrow’s family said: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our beloved son, husband, father, brother and friend.

“Rob has always been a real inspiration throughout his life, whether it was on the rugby field or during his battle with MND. He never let others determine what he could achieve and believed in his own ability to do more.

“The outpouring of love and support that Rob and the entire Burrow family have received over the past four and a half years has meant so much to Rob.

“In particular, the rugby league family and the MND community have rallied around Rob to inspire him, thank you for your support. To those who have known Rob all his life, his determination and perseverance in the face of ALS over the past four and a half years has come as no surprise. Rob never accepted that he couldn’t do something. He just found his way to do it better than anyone else. He will continue to inspire us all every day. In a world full of adversity. We must dare to dream.”

Burrow, a patron of the MND Association, helped raise millions to build a new care center for motor neurone disease patients with former teammate Sinfield.

Leeds Hospitals Charity said Burrow “bravely shared his personal story with all of us” and “showed us how to live life to the fullest despite adversity”.

It added that it had raised £5.8 million to build a specialist center for people with motor neurone disease and their families “thanks to Rob’s dedication and support”.

The MND Association said: “It is a testament to the strength of people’s feeling for Rob that support in his name has never wavered. The MND Association is incredibly grateful to Rob and his family for helping to raise awareness of MND and increasing funds for the association, by sharing the details of their journey and inspiring so many people, both within the MND community as well as the broader public.”

In February it was announced that the player of the match award at this year’s Super League Grand Final would be named after Burrow, the first player to win the trophy twice, in 2007 and 2011.

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