HE IS rated as one of Super League’s finest-ever hookers but Rob Burrow concedes he will never see himself as a number nine, “hated” the move and has had to evolve in the role without help from anyone else.
The Leeds Rhinos star is fast-approaching the end of his glittering career having recently announced he will retire at the end of this season.
He hopes, of course, to bow out in customary style with an eighth Grand Final winners’ ring at Old Trafford on October 7 although there is some significant work still to be done if that is to be the case.
Nevertheless, inevitably, people have already started reminiscing with the 34-year-old about his brilliant achievements in the sport.
One of the most fascinating aspects of his trophy-laden career is that Burrow, who debuted for Leeds in 2001, shot to fame as arguably the club’s greatest-ever scrum-half.
An exhilarating talent, he could win games on his own with a lightning break or moment of sheer ingenuity.
It was only a decade later, in 2011, that incoming coach Brian McDermott not only switched the diminutive Burrow to hooker but also used him predominantly from the bench.
Admittedly, he has enjoyed much success there as well, darting out of dummy-half to slice open opponents.
But Burrow admitted: “I don’t see myself as a hooker. I know I play there but I defend out wide like a half obviously because of my size.
“If I did defend in the middle then I’d be ineffective as I couldn’t handle that.
“But I hated it (moving to nine). I didn’t want to do it and I had fall-outs about it.
“Yet it kind of gave me an incentive. Not a kick up the backside but I had to try and invent a way for me to play hooker.
“I did that myself. I didn’t get that off anyone, if I’m honest.
“I can’t say anyone gave me any tips or anything. I just found a way. And after so long I just ran, ran and ran.”
There are some positives with the role.
Burrow explained: “The good thing about coming off the bench at nine for me is you are in charge of your own destiny.
“Sometimes you come on as a half in the second period. You appreciate the hooker’s used to passing to his normal guy and you don’t get the ball as much.
“When you’re at nine, though, you can do what you want and run when you want which sounds selfish but it helps. It’s hard to get into the game as a half-back.
“I’m not a fan of having one on the bench to come on as a half as the continuity goes.
“You don’t see it happen much although I have had an effect on a game like that; I came on at half in the 2011 Grand Final so it can happen.”
Burrow references there his man-of-the-match appearance against St Helens when he arrived to score what many people view as the greatest-ever Grand-Final try.
A sumptuous individual effort, scorching past hapless opponents on a mazy midfield run, it helped put Leeds on course for yet another Old Trafford victory.
“Every win we’ve had has been brilliant in different ways but, for a personal reason, that’s the best I’ve played in a final,” added Burrow, who, bizarrely, did not even get off the bench along with Jimmy Keinhorst in Leeds’ win against St Helens last week.
“I got man-of-the-match in 2007 but it stood out more when I got it in 2011.
“It was one of my best tries, too. And there was the significance of it. But I can’t remember what I do in games. I’m very off-the-cuff and ad hoc.
“The only thing I remember was the A defender was a bit wide. It was (Tony) Puletua who looked just a bit tired out of the corner of my eye.
“I’d not planned it all out. I ended up ducking, then, it’s all just instinctive. I’m not conscious of what I did really.”