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Rob Burrow had a huge heart – Prince of Wales leads tributes to former Leeds ace

The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to Rob Burrow following his death at the age of 41 (Phil Noble/PA)
The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to Rob Burrow following his death at the age of 41 (Phil Noble/PA)

The Prince of Wales has described Rob Burrow as a “legend of rugby league” who had a “huge heart” following his death at the age of 41.

Burrow’s former club Leeds Rhinos announced on Sunday evening that their former scrum-half had died after a four-and-a-half-year battle with motor neurone disease.

Burrow was diagnosed with the incurable illness in December 2019 and immediately launched himself into a campaign to raise awareness of the disease, raising millions in the process alongside former team-mate and close friend Kevin Sinfield.

William, who awarded CBEs to both Burrow and Sinfield for services to MND awareness in January, led the tributes with a statement on his official X account.

He wrote: “A legend of rugby league, Rob Burrow had a huge heart. He taught us ‘in a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream’. Catherine and I send our love to Lindsey, Jackson, Maya and Macy.”

Burrow’s long-time former Leeds team-mate Jamie Peacock wrote on Instagram: “We all knew this day was coming, it was always going to be too soon and none of us wanted to think about it.

“Rob in a sport where courage, bravery and grit are characteristic of every player at the absolute top, you were the most courageous, the bravest and the grittiest of them all.

“And a sense of humour to match, I’ll always remember you holding court in a dressing room having men twice as big cower because of your take no prisoners sense of wit.

“Becoming an inspiration for 1000s and a North Star for the MND community, providing hope where before there was none. Never once complaining about your condition and situation. An inspiration to us all. RIP mate.”

Ex-Scotland rugby union international Doddie Weir campaigned alongside Burrow to raise awareness and funds for MND until his death in November 2022 aged 52, and his charity – My Name’5 Doddie Foundation – described Burrow as “a true inspiration” on Sunday evening.

Its statement read: “We are so sad to hear of the death of Rob Burrow. Like Doddie, Rob has been a true inspiration for people living with MND. Our thoughts are with Lindsey, their children and all Rob’s family and friends.”

Current Leeds second-row forward Cameron Smith, who played alongside Burrow before he retired in 2017, visited Headingley with fans to pay his respects to his former team-mate.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, the 25-year-old said: “It’s a really emotional night. I think it’s amazing with the amount of people who have come to show their respects.

“I thought it was important for us players to pay our respects for Rob, who is such a hero. I was lucky enough to get a couple of games with him. He was my academy coach and he taught me a lot about the game, and how to be a good team-mate and a good bloke.

“He was a truly tremendous player and he’s left a tremendous legacy here, being so successful for the amount of time he played at Leeds.

“He is a truly amazing person and the awareness he has put on MND, with the work Kevin (Sinfield) has done, while he’s been having this battle has been amazing, and the work Kevin will continue to do to raise awareness for MND, not only in the UK but around the world.”

Former Rhinos team-mate and close friend Barrie McDermott wrote on social media: “The world will never forget Rob Burrow. He is a hero to so many people and an inspiration to all who were lucky enough to meet him or came across his story on and off the pitch.

“He made me dance like MJ and run when I hate doing both, but mainly he made me laugh out loud.

“He was brave beyond words in these last few months. He has taught me so much about courage, kindness and love.

“Good night, God bless my little brother. I feel blessed to call you my friend.”

The Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, set up by former Bradford defender Stephen Darby and his close friend Chris Rimmer, also paid tribute on social media.

The post read: “Everyone at Darby Rimmer MND Foundation is heartbroken and devastated to hear the sad news that our great friend Rob Burrow has passed away. Our thoughts are with Lindsey, Macy, Maya, Jackson and family. Rest easy Rob x.”

Former England football captain Steph Houghton, who is married to Darby, added: “Devastated doesn’t even come close! Words can’t describe our love for Rob!

“Sending all our love to Lindsey and family! We are always here for you!”

Leeds boxer Josh Warrington added his tribute in a comment on the Rhinos’ statement, writing: “RIP Rob. Inspired to so many. A champion, a legend.”

The Rugby Football League said in a statement on social media: “Rob Burrow was an outstanding rugby league player, for club and country. Since December 2019, his courage and humanity – allied to that of his family, friends and former Leeds Rhinos team-mates, led by Kevin Sinfield CBE – has transcended sport.”

RFL chairman Simon Johnson added: “This devastating news has united all in rugby league in sadness and the many others who have been touched and inspired by the courageous response of Rob, his family and friends since his diagnosis in December 2019.

“We will take a little time as a sport to consider how best to remember Rob, and to celebrate his life, at our Challenge Cup Finals Day at Wembley Stadium next Saturday, when Leeds Rhinos will play St Helens in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final.

“We had already committed earlier this year that the player of the match in the men’s Betfred Super League Grand Final will receive the Rob Burrow Award – to be presented for the first time at Old Trafford this October.”

Every Super League club offered their condolences, with defending champions Wigan writing: “His legacy will live on through those whose lives he touched, and his story will continue to inspire all.”

St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said in a statement on the club’s official website: “He has left an indelible mark on our sport. He has also done so much to further the recognition of the terrible disease which afflicted him, and to assist the research which will save the lives of others in the future.

“He leaves an unforgettable and unmatchable legacy in so many ways.”

Hull KR wrote: “Rob was a true competitor on the pitch, and a warrior off it until the very end. There’s only one Rob Burrow,” while cross-city rivals Hull FC added: “In a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream.”

Sky Bet Championship club Leeds United wrote: “Everyone at #LUFC is devastated to learn of the passing of Rob Burrow CBE. Our thoughts are with Rob’s family, friends, all at Leeds Rhinos and the MND community at this incredibly sad time. RIP Legend.”

Former England bowler Stuart Broad wrote: “Thinking of Rob Burrow’s family at this time. Motor Neurone Disease is so cruel. Rob, his family & community have raised so much awareness & funds that will give us a chance to find a cure. I was with him & Lindsey last week, both incredible people.”

TV and radio presenter Dan Walker added: “He was the little fella who made a massive impact on the pitch and an even bigger one off it.

“Rob Burrow taught us so much in the way he dealt with his MND diagnosis and inspired millions with his continued determination to help others, despite what he was going through himself. He was a class act. The fight goes on.”

Carol Vorderman, co-host of the Pride of Britain Awards, said: “RIP the great Rob Burrow. We had the privilege of giving @Rob7Burrow and his wife Lindsey @PrideOfBritain awards last yr.

“An incredible man and a truly incredible family. My heart goes out to them. With the deepest respect.”