LEEDS RHINOS boss Brian McDermott has admitted that at first sight, he didn’t think Rob Burrow would make it in professional rugby league.
The 31-year-old half-back-turned-hooker will become only the 12th player to make 400 appearances for Leeds when Rhinos visit Bradford Bulls tonight.
Burrow is also the 12th-highest points scorer in Leeds’ history and has collected a joint-record six Championship wins, two of them as man of the match – despite being the shortest player in the competition at just 5ft 5ins tall.
McDermott hailed 400 games as a “massive” achievement, but recalled: “I remember Rob debuting many years ago.
“I, along with quite a few people, thought there’s no way he could play – he would have to do something special. I think that’s what you say about most kids coming through now.
“If they are going to be that stature, you have to do something very special to be able to forge a career – the same as fellas who are overweight or some long, skinny lads or some slow, fat kid.
“You say maybe you could play, but you have to be something special as well. Rob has certainly been that, he has been very special.
“Credit to him and he has got a fair few more games left in him as well.”
Burrow has been in outstanding form so far this year and McDermott – who admitted to being “scared to death” of playing against the nippy No 7 – attributed some of that to Rhinos’ backroom staff.
He added: “I think you have got to give credit to (physio) Andy Barker and (conditioner) Jason Davidson and the physios before, such as Dave O’Sullivan.
“Rob has had a couple of issues with his knees over the last three or four seasons and everyone was talking about how that would probably be the end of his speed, but his speed doesn’t seem to have diminished too much.
“Jason handles the fellas incredibly well. There is an art in dealing with older players and with older players who have done and achieved so much, to be able to keep them enthused.
“Jason has a knack with the older players and Rob certainly benefits from Jason’s expertise.”
Burrow also has a role in
Rhinos’ youth set-up and McDermott added: “Rob is an astute fella.
“He and Carl Ablett both coach the under-16s and he is part of what Leeds is about – along with Magsy and Kev and JP, Kylie, Jonesy, Ryan Bailey and others.
“That’s the worth of the squad, that we have had a lot of continuity over the years. Certainly if you want an indicator of what Leeds Rhinos is all about, Rob would be a fair gauge.”
Looking ahead to tonight’s game, McDermott said Ryan Bailey is a doubt due to a groin/back problem, but should be available for Monday’s visit of Salford Red Devils.
Jamie Peacock is rested and Ben Jones-Bishop misses out due to a head injury suffered in the win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats six days ago, but could also feature on Monday.
Danny McGuire and Brett Delaney are set to return tonight after being rested last week.
“Bradford will raise their game, it will be a very tricky game,” McDermott predicted.
Rhinos’ lower grades both face Bradford at Odsal on Saturday.
The under-16s kick-off at noon, with the under-19s game starting at 2.30pm.