Rob Burrow: What made the Leeds Rhinos great the Magnificent 7

The qualities of Rob Burrow the rugby league player have long been acclaimed far and wide, but the qualities of Rob Burrow the person are perhaps lesser known.

Former team-mates, coaches and opponents were among those to pay tribute to the Leeds Rhinos great, who is battling motor neurone disease after being diagnosed in December last year, in the ‘Rob Burrow: The Magnificent 7’ documentary, which is now available on Sky Sports On Demand.

As well as underlining what made Burrow such a stand-out player during his 17 seasons with the Rhinos, there were plenty of reflections on what he was like off the field, with Jamie Peacock explaining how the man he played with for both club and country helped him adjust to life at Leeds after joining from arch-rivals Bradford Bulls for the 2006 season.

“I’d spent 10 years at Bradford and moved to our bitterest rivals, and people were a bit stand-offish, but Rob never was,” former prop Peacock said.

“I think that’s one of Rob’s great character traits, his ability to welcome everybody into a team.

“He was exceptionally good at bringing young players into the team and making them feel welcome, having a bit of a laugh with them so they were made to feel like they were part of the group.”

On the playing side, Burrow’s achievements speak for themselves. He was part of eight Super League Grand Final triumphs, two Challenge Cup wins, three World Club Challenge successes and is in an elite group of players to have won the Harry Sunderland Trophy twice.

From making his Super League debut against Hull FC in 2001, Burrow quickly became a mainstay of the Rhinos team through their golden era, first as a half-back and then at hooker – even though there were times he vehemently disagreed with head coach Brian McDermott about playing in the latter role.

He achieved all of that despite some initially thinking he would be too small to make it at the highest level, standing at 5ft 5in and weighing just over 10st, but those doubts were quickly dispelled when he showed his ability as former team-mate Kevin Sinfield remembered from the first time they met.

“I was 14 and he was 12 and the smallest guy by a mile, but the fastest thing I’d you’d ever seen,” Sinfield said.

“He was quite quiet at the time, but when we started to come through together, we started to forge a really good friendship.

You knew at times in big games if you need something special, we had a number of players who could come up with stuff, but Rob always seemed to deliver.

Kevin Sinfield

“He was great to have on your team. You knew at times in big games if you need something special, we had a number of players who could come up with stuff, but Rob always seemed to deliver.”

Another former Rhino, Danny McGuire, had known of Burrow from a young age due to them being opponents at junior level before coming together to play for Yorkshire and then at the Rhinos.

Both made their debuts in the same season and bowed out from the Rhinos as Grand Final winners in 2017, with Burrow retiring and McGuire moving to Hull Kingston Rovers.

That 24-6 win over Castleford Tigers at Old Trafford remains the highlight of McGuire’s career due to the fact him and Burrow got to lift the trophy together.

To be able to finish our careers from being together from 11 years old and lifting a trophy together was my best moment without a doubt and I don’t doubt Rob treasures that as well.

Danny McGuire

“Our careers mirrored each other – it was so strange how it panned out,” McGuire said. “I played at East Leeds and we played against Castleford Panthers, and I remember this little genius running around.

“We ended up representing Yorkshire together and I was small as well and remember standing in the team photo with him being proud I was taller than someone.

“To be able to finish our careers from being together from 11 years old and lifting a trophy together was my best moment without a doubt and I don’t doubt Rob treasures that as well.”

The entire rugby league community rallied around Burrow last year when his MND diagnosis was first revealed, including a sell-out crowd attending the pre-season match between Leeds and Bradford at Headingley which doubled as a testimonial match for Jamie Jones-Buchanan and fundraiser for Burrow.

The 38-year-old has now dedicated himself to campaigning to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and has tackled this challenge in exactly the same way as he took on whatever he faced during his playing career.

“You look at the way Rob is battling things and it just puts a lot of things into perspective for you,” Peacock said. “He really is fighting a battle, he’s inspirational and the way he’s taken it on there is no self-pity, just dignity.”

Most of all, though, Burrow remains someone who has a made a huge impact on so many people as a person as well as a player.

“I can sit here and say hand on heart this isn’t just because of Rob’s illness we’re saying these things,” his former Leeds head coach Tony Smith said. “This is just belief.”

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