Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield's emotional tributes after winning top BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards
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Sinfield, who ran seven marathons in seven days to raise money for an MND charity last month, told an audience that MND was “curable but underfunded”, while former teammate Rob, who was diagnosed with the illness in 2019, dedicated his award to "all the MND warriors”.
The awards come the same week that it was announced the duo would become honorary freemen of the city of Leeds. Speaking after his wife, Lindsey picked up the award on his behalf, Rob told the audience: “I am totally overcome with this award, due to the amount of amazing people that have won this before. Particularly my MND hero Doddie Weir I don’t think I would be here today without meeting him a week into my diagnosis.
"I’m inspired to keep going by my friend Kevin Sinfield – the guy who made the impossible possible. My family and all those who have put their lives on hold to care for me – especially my beautiful wife Lindsey and my amazing kids. I am not here without Lindsey’s sacrifice. This is for all the MND warriors – we will not stop without finding a cure.”
Scotland rugby union legend Doddie Weir won the award at Sports Personality of the Year in 2019, and died last month, six years after being diagnosed with MND. He had raised more than £8m through his own MND foundation.
A visibly-moved Kevin Sinfield said: "The world of rugby has got behind what we’ve tried to do, so let’s dedicate this award to them.
"Rob’s probably the most inspirational bloke in the UK at this moment in time. He has inspired us all to be better friends and in sport, the connections you make in your playing careers, the camaraderie, the teammates you get and your friendships don’t stop when the whistle goes. Rugby and sport is powerful enough to bring communities together. We witnessed a nation that cared about the MND community.
"Doddie used to say a lot that MND is curable – it’s just underfunded. We have got to all keep fighting – people need us and families need us.
"We will keep banging the drum and doing our best.”
Councillors will meet on January 11 to formally approve the pair’s honorary freemen status.
Rob and Kevin will join illustrious names including Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Alan Bennett in being named Freemen of the City of Leeds at a ceremony next month.
The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Leeds Civic Hall the same afternoon, with their names being added to an engraved roll of honour in the building’s banqueting suite.
Burrow said: “Having spent my entire adult life as part of the Leeds Rhinos family, it meant so much to me during my career to be able to bring joy to the people of Leeds with our success on the field.”