Rugby League


2 Jun 2024

In memoriam: Rob Burrow CBE (1982-2024)

In memoriam: Rob Burrow CBE (1982-2024)

Simon Johnson, Chair, Rugby Football League 

‘When I leave him, I’m uplifted’ wrote Kevin Sinfield in his autobiography The Extra Mile. In many ways, we have all been uplifted by Rob Burrow. And we will continue to be. Rob may have left us, but he leaves us with memories that will last forever, whether they be highlights of a glittering playing career or his courageous and very public battle with MND. Or Rob just being Rob. Down to earth. Unassuming. Funny.          

Rob was, first and foremost, a dedicated family man. Husband to Lindsey, herself a tower of astonishing strength as Rob battled against Motor Neurone Disease; father of three wonderful children in Macy, Maya and Jackson; and loving son of Geoff and Irene Burrow. At a time of acute pain and sorrow, I fervently hope that, though their sadness will ache, they can all soon find comfort and pride in reflecting on their own parts in Rob’s life – his life as a devoted family man, as an inspirational Rugby League player, and in later years living with MND and raising awareness of the condition by opening up about his own experiences.  

In sickness, Rob typically defied MND for far longer than his initial diagnosis suggested. In his family and friends, and in confronting the challenge of MND, Rob found too many reasons to live.  Although we feared that the day of his passing would one day come, we were inspired every day that he lived since his diagnosis by his courage and humanity. Rob inspired so many  friends and ordinary people to be the best of themselves and to achieve so much for others who were suffering.

In health, Rob famously defied his physical limitations to enjoy a 17-year career with Leeds Rhinos, during which he won every available honour in the game, and represented England and Great Britain. His inspirational performances against New Zealand in 2007 earned him the Player of the Series accolade.  

Rob’s star can scarcely have shone more brightly than during the 2011 Grand Final, when he scored perhaps the greatest of all Grand Final tries at Old Trafford. In the space of a few seconds, Rob encapsulated what statistics never can, his trademark eye for a gap, speed off the mark and elusive running hitting even greater heights on the biggest stage of all. Rugby League is in the entertainment industry and Rob was one of its great entertainers. It’s why supporters of all clubs, not just the Headingley faithful, were united in their admiration of him. And they will be united too in their grief.    

The entire Rugby League family is united in sadness this evening. We offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of someone who represents the best of Rugby League. I hope that they are spared any further sadness for many years to come. I am extremely proud that our game is and will forever be associated with him.  May his memory and his deeds be a blessing and an inspiration to us all.