Rob Burrow Centre for MND appeal: Former rugby league referee Dave Merrick's swim challenge at Aspire at The Park in Pontefract

A Former rugby league referee has taken on a tough swimming challenge to raise cash for the Leeds Hospitals Charity appeal to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND.

Saturday, 13th November 2021, 4:45 am

Dave Merrick, 45, of Pontefract, plans to swim around a mile a day to reach his target of completing 60 miles in the pool by Christmas Eve.

Dave said he chose the 60 mile target as it is roughly the distance between Pontefract and Old Trafford in Manchester, a journey Rob - also of Pontefract - made many times in his playing career with Leeds Rhinos.

The dad-of-two is fitting his lengthy daily swim sessions in between working 12-hour shifts as a machine operator at Ardagh Glass in Knottingley.

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Former rugby league referee Dave Merrick at Aspire at The Park in Pontefract. He is doing a tough swim challenge to raise funds for the Leeds Hospitals Charity's Rob Burrow Centre for MND appeal. Photo: Tony Johnson

Dave, who was a referee in the RFL Championship for 12 years, started his challenge at Aspire at The Park in Pontefract on November 1 and said it is going well.

He is currently completing around 110 lengths a day to get ahead and has already raised more than £2,000 for the Leeds Hospitals appeal.

Dave said: "I have known Rob Burrow a long time personally and seeing how he is battling this horrible disease has made me want to do something myself to raise awareness of MND. "

Dave is a member of the coaching staff at Featherstone Rovers and the club has helped him publicise his swim challenge.

Former rugby league referee Dave Merrick (left) at Aspire at The Park in Pontefract. He is doing a tough swim challenge to raise funds for the Leeds Hospitals Charity's Rob Burrow Centre for MND appeal. Dave is pictured with Jason Wilcox and Callum Maxwell from Aspire at the Park and former rugby league professional player Wayne Godwin, who are all supporting him in his fundraising feat. Picture: Tony Johnson

Former rugby league star Wayne Godwin is also helping promote the challenge on social media.

Dave was inspired by former rugby league star Kevin Sinfield's fundraising challenges.

Kevin, who previously raised more than £2.7m when he ran seven marathons in seven days last December, plans to run from the home ground of rugby union side Leicester Tigers, where he now coaches, to the home of his and Burrow’s former rugby league team, Leeds Rhinos.

Rob, who spent 16 years with the Leeds Rhinos before retiring in 2017, was diagnosed with MND in December 2019.

Former rugby league referee Dave Merrick (left) at Aspire at The Park in Pontefract. He is doing a tough swim challenge to raise funds for the Leeds Hospitals Charity's Rob Burrow Centre for MND appeal. Dave is pictured with former rugby league professional player Wayne Godwin, who is supporting him in his fundraising feat. Picture: Tony Johnson

The Leeds Hospitals Charity has launched an appeal for a new state-of-the-art Motor Neurone Disease Centre to be built in Leeds.

It is raising funds to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND, to support people living with MND and their families,

To support Dave Merrick's swim challenge, go to https://leedshospitalscharity.enthuse.com/pf/david-merrick-04a67