Leeds Rhinos: Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell hails ‘champion player, champion bloke’ Rob Burrow

CASTLEFORD TIGERS boss Daryl Powell has voiced the thoughts of the entire rugby league world following Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow’s motor neuron disease (MND) diagnosis.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 20th December 2019, 12:11 pm
Rob Burrow lifts the Super League trophy in 2015.
Rob Burrow lifts the Super League trophy in 2015.

Burrow revealed yesterday he has the terminal illness, which affects a body’s muscles and has no known cure.

Tigers were among a host of clubs – on both sides of the globe – to express support for Burrow on social media.

In a Twitter message, the club said: “You’re in all of our thoughts @Rob7Burrow. You tackled your career with a fearless attitude to overcome the odds, which has now been surpassed by the incredible bravery you’ve shown today. Please everybody do what you can to support Rob. It will be our honour to do the same.”

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Former Leeds Rhinos coach and current Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Powell was Rhinos coach when Burrow – who is from Castleford – made his full debut in 2001.

The then teenage scrum-half came off the bench in Dean Lance’s final game in charge of Leeds, at home to Hull on April 6 and was a try scorer six days later – as the starting half-back – when Powell’s first match as coach ended in defeat at Warrington Wolves.

Burrow’s last game as a player, before joining Rhinos’ backroom staff, was their Betfred Super League Grand Final win over Tigers two years ago.

“Rob is one of those blokes and players nobody would have a bad word to say about,” Powell said.

Mark Calderwood congratulates Rob Burrow on scoring on his full debut for Leeds Rhinos against Warrington in 2001. Picture: Steve Riding.

“He is a champion bloke, champion player. It [when the news broke] was a very difficult day, certainly for people who know Rob, but I think for everybody, just what he stands for as a person more than anything else.”

Powell admitted: “I was absolutely distraught when I heard, but I recognise as well that he’s a tough lad and he will recognise the battle in front of him. I’ve seen some of the words he’s said and I know everyone will want to support him and his family and make sure that he is well and happy and he lives his life to the full.

“I think that’s what you want for everybody and he certainly deserves that.”

England rugby league, the RFL and Super League also Tweeted their backing for Burrow, along with professional and amateur clubs in this country and Australia.

Rob Burrow kicks for goal during his full debut for Leeds Rhinos against Warrington Wolves in 2001.

An online donation page – www.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/robburrow – had raised more than £71,000 for Burrow and his young family by this morning, having only gone live at noon yesterday.

Fans, clubs and players have joined in fund-raising efforts.

Catalans Dragons’ Sam Tomkins put up his England jersey from the recent World Cup Nines for auction and referee Chris Kendall has done the same with the shirt he wore in the competition final.

A fans’ group are planning a sponsored walk from Leeds to Castleford on the day of Rhinos’ Super League clash with Tigers in March.

Townville Cricket Club, who play in the Bradford League, announced a £3 admission charge for their Priestley Cup tie against Hanging Heaton in April with all money raised going to the MND Association.

The outpouring of backing for Burrow – who has a wife Lindsey and three children aged under-eight – was not a surprise to Powell. He recalled: “The first time I saw him he was a scholarship player – and I don’t think he grew any more!

“He was electric as a player and I don’t think I’ve met anyone as nice, as genuine, as honest and truthful.

“I can’t say how bad I feel at the moment. I know Rob won’t want people to feel like that because that’s not what he’s like.

“He will want people to think of him just as Rob, because that’s what he is. He won’t want people to feel sorry for him. He is an unbelievably good man and as a player you don’t often see people as good as him.”