Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow hopeful he could live for 10 years with motor neurone disease

Retired rugby league star Rob Burrow has been boosted by some positive news from a motor neurone disease specialist after his devastating diagnosis.

By Grace Newton
Saturday, 11th January 2020, 9:39 am
Updated Saturday, 11th January 2020, 9:41 am
Rob Burrow during his 500th appearance for Leeds Rhinos in 2017
Rob Burrow during his 500th appearance for Leeds Rhinos in 2017

The 37-year-old former Leeds Rhinos player, who now coaches at the club, was told before Christmas that he had the degenerative neurological condition, for which there is no cure.

His announcement devastated both Rhinos fans and the wider rugby community, who rallied to support him, and almost £300,000 has now been raised for his family since a Virgin Money Giving appeal was launched.

Speaking to Yorkshire Post rugby writer Dave Craven ahead of Sunday's joint benefit match for both Burrow and team-mate Jamie Jones-Buchanan at Headingley Stadium, the father-of-three has revealed that he has been given a more positive prognosis after going to see a specialist based in Sheffield.

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The doctor told him that he is a 'borderline' case and that he could survive for 10 years.

“I saw Professor Christopher McDermott, who’s a really top guy,” explained Burrow, who retired in 2017.

“I never really had answers after being diagnosed; we had so many questions that people didn’t have the answers to but he had them.

“We’re at the really early stages of it and some of the tests were borderline; he did confirm MND but he said I’m borderline.

“The average lifespan is three years but that’s usually in older people, and it doesn’t apply to me. He reckoned I could be alive for a few years yet which is good and hopefully it will be nearer 10.

“He spoke about some trial drugs as well so hopefully I’m eligible to pass and I’ll get on that. It was really positive news in the circumstances.

“I’ve had a lady in Miami get in touch to say she was diagnosed at 37 and she’s now 56. I’m really positive and really determined. I’m not sure we’ll win the battle but I want to be here for a long time. I want to watch my kids grow up, and my headspace is really positive."

The testimonial against Bradford Bulls is a 21,000-seat sell-out and Sky Sports will broadcast the match live. Burrow himself will play in the game, alongside Danny McGuire, Kylie Leuluai, Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock, who all played alongside him as part of Rhinos' 'golden generation'.

“I was lucky enough to do that all my life.

“Some people don’t. So, to be able to walk out with them and wear the blue and amber again in front of a packed house, what better way to bow out?

“I never thought I’d play again but the fact that I get to do that again with the best of friends.

“They’ve really been there for me these last few weeks. Again, people like Jamie Peacock turning out…he’ll probably fall apart!

“If he’s willing to do that for me. Kev will be like normal. He’ll be match fit. I can’t describe what it feels like; it’ll be emotional.

“The day of the game will be great, to go on the pitch with some old friends. It’s really special, and I can’t believe McGuire and Kylie are involved now too.

“I’m really happy my two girls got to walk out with me (during his playing career) but my little son Jackson is one now so he gets to do that as well.

“That means they’ll have all been on the pitch with me. That’s also a proud moment.”

Sinfield offered to attend hospital appointments with Burrow and both he and Peacock have cut short holidays to fly back to Leeds and play in the match.

“They can’t do enough. Their lives are put on hold for me. I can’t thank them enough. The fact I’ll play again and pass to Kev - or give a hospital pass to Kylie! - is unbelievable. I can’t find the words, in particular for Kev; he’s been like a big brother.

“This will be one last time. We were lucky enough to win lots, stay tight and stay together for a long time.

“I hope they know I’d do it for them. Just when you think you couldn’t have any more happy memories, they go and do this. Unbelievable.”