Leed Rhinos say an emotional farewell to Rob Burrow

leed rhinos say an emotional farewell to rob burrow

Thousands turned up at Headingley to pay tribute to Rob Burrow - Getty Images/Ed Sykes

It was around half an hour before kick-off between Leeds Rhinos and Leigh Leopards when Rob Burrow’s grieving father Geoff was interviewed live on Sky Sports at an emotionally fraught Headingley.

The cast list was impressive with a host of Leeds Rhinos legends in attendance, some of whom had flown in from Australia to pay tribute to one of the most-loved players in the club’s history.

But this was Burrow’s dad, who saw his son realise a childhood dream by playing for Leeds and go on to win eight Super League Grand Finals during a glittering 17-year career.

The brilliant former scrum-half, who stood just 5ft 5in, died aged 41 on June 2, four-and-a-half years after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).

“It’s a very emotional night, especially because Leeds v Leigh was the first game I brought Rob to [as a child]’,” Geoff Burrow said poignantly over the public address system in front of the 17,535 crowd.

“He still kept an eye out for Leigh’s results after that first game.

“I wish he could see this now. He was cheeky, a lovely, lovely lad, and I miss him so much.”

And with that, he broke down in tears.

This will be remembered as the night when the Rhinos, where Burrow enjoyed iconic status, and rugby league came together to honour the much-loved former playmaker’s memory.

leed rhinos say an emotional farewell to rob burrow

Rob Burrow was a Leeds Rhinos legend playing just shy of 500 times for the Yorkshire heavyweights - Getty Images/Daniel L Smith

The visit of Leigh Leopards was Leeds’ first home game since Burrow’s death and the wonderful tributes fully did him justice, as did their 18-10 victory.

Headingley’s famous South Stand began filling up around two hours before kick-off ahead of the formal tributes to Burrow, which began at 7pm in line with Sky Sports’ live coverage.

Brian Carney, Sky Sports’ main presenter on their Super League coverage, orchestrated proceedings superbly along with Barrie McDermott and Jamie Jones-Buchanan, the former Leeds players now working as pundits for Sky.

McDermott and Jones-Buchanan remained particularly close to Burrow following their playing days together and they supported him after his diagnosis.

So too did Danny McGuire, another legendary figure who starred alongside Burrow in all eight of Leeds’s Grand Final victories at Old Trafford.

From winning the club’s seminal first title in 32 years in 2004 to bowing out as champions in the 2017 Grand Final victory over Castleford, Burrow and McGuire did it together.

McDermott, Jones-Buchanan and McGuire were among a group of ex-team-mates, which included Kevin Sinfield, who would regularly visit Burrow at his home in Pontefract following his diagnosis in December 2019.

There would be dark humour at times but the dressing room camaraderie which carried Leeds to much success still existed.

Bob Pickles scouted Burrow when he was just 12 and was interviewed about the discovery of a tiny youngster with a penchant for outmanoeuvring opposition defences with speed and impish footwork.

As footage of Burrow playing as a child was shown on Headingley’s big screen, Pickles said: “Rob’s father was a lifelong Leeds supporter, but the biggest thing was convincing people that Rob was big enough to play rugby league.

“After a couple of weeks they were saying ‘he’s a bit special this boy’.”

Phil Caplan, a respected Leeds historian and chairman of the club’s heritage committee, called Burrow the greatest scrum-half in Leeds’ history.

Shortly before kick-off around 70 of his former team-mates lined up, arm in arm, with overseas greats such as Danny Buderus and Ali Lauiti’iti having travelled from Australia to be there.

The remarkable Sinfield, who has raised over £8 million for MND charities, was not present owing to his commitments with the England rugby union side during their summer tour.

Sky Sports’ cameras panned onto Lindsey Burrow, the widow of the former Leeds star, herself struggling to hold back the tears.

leed rhinos say an emotional farewell to rob burrow

Lindsey Burrow was in tears during the emotional tribute to her husband - PA/Danny Lawson

She was resplendent in a special jersey for the game which was designed by Cath Muir, who was diagnosed with MND in 2014.

It features an image of Burrow with his Sinfield, and a portion of the profit from each shirt sold will be donated to the Leeds Hospitals Charity appeal to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND.

A minute’s silence was held before kick-off, and applause in the seventh minute of the game as a mark of respect of Burrow’s number seven jersey.

That Leeds, who dispensed with their head coach, Rohan Smith, earlier this week after a poor run of form, emerged victorious 18-10 merely added to the occasion.

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