Rugby Legend Rob Burrow Loses Brave ALS Battle, Leaves Lasting Legacy

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In Leeds, England, the sporting world mourns the loss of Rob Burrow, a towering figure in the game of rugby who shone brightly not only in his athletic endeavors but also in a fearless fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease. Struck down at the age of 41, Burrow’s indomitable spirit against defying odds was a poignant testament to his character.

The announcement of his passing was made by Leeds Rhinos, the club that bore witness to Burrow’s illustrious career. Distinguishing himself as a stalwart of English rugby, Burrow remained with the club his entire career, carving an impressive legacy that included a key role in clinching eight Super League titles.

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Following his retirement in 2017, the specter of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Motor Neurone Disease (MND), loomed over him but hardly dampened his resilient spirit. Channeling his energies toward a noble cause, Burrow—and his former teammate Kevin Sinfield — vigorously raised funds to build a care center dedicated to providing relief and support for ALS patients.

In the hour of his passing, Leeds Rhinos eulogized him with a heartfelt statement, noting, “Rob inspired the entire country with his brave battle against MND since his diagnosis in December 2019. He passed away peacefully at Pinderfield’s Hospital (in Wakefield) near his home surrounded by his loving family.”

Tributes poured in from all walks of life, including from Britain’s Prince William, who recalled Burrow’s determined spirit saying, “He taught us, ‘in a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream.’

A native of Pontefract, Burrow charted an impressive journey—right from the academy of Leeds to his debut in 2001—leaving indelible footprints in the sands of time. His first Super League title came in 2004, setting the stage for his being laureled at the nation’s sports altar with England honors.

England leaned on him heavily during the test series with New Zealand in 2007, where he shone brilliantly in a 3-0 victory — a performance that earned him the player of the series title. A linchpin for Leeds during a spell awash with accolades, he played a central role in clinching World Club Challenge glory in 2005, 2008, and 2012.

After his retirement, Burrow moved to coaching, piloting the Leeds academy before the grave ALS diagnosis. Even as his health declined, he starred in an award-winning BBC documentary that shed light on the gut-wrenching battle he and his family waged against the disease.

As his condition worsened, Sinfield continued with Burrow’s philanthropic efforts, including the herculean task of running seven marathons in seven days to boost the fundraising drive. Together, they raised nearly £20 million ($25.5 million), including over £6 million for the Rob Burrow Centre for MND in Leeds.

A dramatic moment played out in May 2023 when Sinfield carried Burrow across the finish line at the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon, pushing his great friend for the distance. Sinfield mourned the loss of his friend saying, “Today was the day that I hoped would never come,” adding, “The world has lost a great man and a wonderful friend to so many.”