1982

2024

Remembering Robert Geoffrey Burrow.

This page was created in memory of Leeds Rhino Legend Rob Burrow.

A loving husband, father, brother and mate.

 

 Robert Geoffrey Burrow, a cherished husband, father, brother and rugby legend, passed away peacefully on June 2nd, 2024, at the age of 41. Rob inspired many as one of the most successful players in English rugby league history and with his campaigning to raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND).

Robert Geoffrey Burrow CBE (26 September 1982 – 2 June 2024) was an English professional rugby league footballer who played as a scrum-half or hooker. An England and Great Britain representative, Burrow spent his entire 16-year professional career with Leeds Rhinos in the Super League, making nearly 500 appearances between 2001 and 2017. At 5 ft 5 in (165 cm) tall and weighing less than 11 st (70 kg; 150 lb), Burrow was known for many years as “the smallest player in Super League”. Despite this, he was one of the most successful players in the competition’s history, winning eight Super League championships, two Challenge Cups, being named to the Super League Dream Team on three occasions and winning the Harry Sunderland Trophy twice.

In December 2019, Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Following his diagnosis, Burrow raised awareness for MND with fellow player Kevin Sinfield. Both were awarded CBEs in 2024 because of their efforts in raising funds and awareness of the disease.

Early life

Burrow was born in Pontefract, West Yorkshire on 26 September 1982. He was the son of Irene (née Bateman) and Geoffrey, a branch secretary for the GMB trade union, and had two older sisters. He grew up in Castleford, and was educated at Airedale High School. He began playing rugby league at the age of seven for Castleford Panthers, and later also played at junior level with Featherstone Lions.

Club career

He joined Leeds Rhinos in 1999, and spent the next couple of years in the Academy ranks. He made his first team debut for Leeds in April 2001, appearing as a substitute in a defeat against Hull. He made his first start for the club a week later, scoring a try in a 6–36 defeat against Warrington Wolves. Burrow received further first team opportunities later in the season due to an injury suffered by Leeds first-choice scrum-half, Ryan Sheridan, and had a number of impressive performances, most notably scoring two tries in a 23–18 win against reigning champions St Helens. He was named the Super League Young Player of the Year at the end of the season.

Burrow played in his first final during the 2003 season, appearing as a substitute in the 2003 Challenge Cup final against Bradford Bulls at the Millennium Stadium, but he suffered a concussion in the first half, and took no further part in the game as Leeds went on to lose the match 20–22.

Burrow played for the Leeds Rhinos from the interchange bench in their 2004 Super League Grand Final victory against the Bradford Bulls. As Super League IX champions, the Rhinos faced 2004 NRL season premiers, the Bulldogs in the 2005 World Club Challenge; Burrow played from the interchange bench, scoring a try in Leeds’ 39–32 victory. He played for Leeds in the 2005 Challenge Cup Final at scrum half back in their loss against Hull FC. Later that year he played for the Leeds Rhinos at stand-off half back in their 2005 Super League Grand Final loss against Bradford Bulls. He was named in the Super League Dream Team for 2005.

He was named as Leeds Rhinos Player of the Year for his performance throughout the 2007 season, and was named in the Super League Dream Team for the same year along with teammates Scott Donald, Jamie Peacock and Gareth Ellis. He was the winner of the Harry Sunderland Award for a man of the match performance in 2007’s Super League XII Grand Final, in which Leeds defeated St. Helens by 33 points to 6.

Burrow was named in the Super League Dream Team for 2008’s Super League XIII season. He played in the 2008 Super League Grand Final victory over St. Helens. 

Burrow following the 2009 Super League Grand Final.

Burrow played in the 2009 Super League Grand Final victory over St. Helens at Old Trafford.

Burrow played in five Challenge Cup Finals in six years between 2010 and 2015, with Leeds Rhinos losing in three consecutive finals in 2010,2011, and 2012. The team then won successive finals in 2014 and 2015.

Burrow also played in the 32–16 victory over St Helens in the 2011 Super League Grand Final, with his first-half try, a 50-metre solo effort, being regarded as one of the greatest tries in Grand Final history. He won the Harry Sunderland Award for the second time when he was unanimously voted as man of the match. He also played in the 2012 Super League Grand Final victory over the Warrington Wolves, and the 2015 Super League Grand Final victory over the Wigan Warriors.

Burrow announced his retirement in 2017. His final match was the 2017 Super League Grand Final in which he helped his club, Leeds to victory over the Castleford Tigers at Old Trafford.

International career

Burrow made his debut for Great Britain in the team’s opening match of the 2005 Tri-Nations against New Zealand. He was also in the squad for the 2006 Tri-Nations, but did not make any appearances.

In June 2007, Burrow was called up to the Great Britain squad for the Test match against France. He played a pivotal role in helping Great Britain to a 3–0 victory over New Zealand in the Gillette Fusion Test series in 2007. He was awarded the George Smith Medal as player of the series which he finished as top points scorer with 26 from two tries and nine goals.

Burrow was selected for the England squad to compete in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup tournament in Australia. In the first Group A match against Papua New Guinea, he played at scrum half back, with England winning the game.

He was not selected for England’s post-season 2011 Four Nations campaign due to a rib injury.

Playing style and legacy

At 5 ft 5 in tall, Burrow was the smallest player in the Super League for many years during his career. He was often compared to other diminutive half-backs such as Roger Millward and Allan Langer.

In February 2024 the RFL announced that a new award for the Super League Grand Final player of the match would be introduced (replacing the Harry Sunderland Trophy) and will be called the Rob Burrow Award.

In May 2024, Burrow was still picking up awards – this time for his ‘Rob Burrow Seven Meets….’ podcast series which was produced by Radio Leeds.

The show, which also features his wife Lindsey, included insightful interviews with a clutch of sporting A-listers, including Wayne Rooney, Jonny Wilkinson and Dame Kelly Holmes.

The podcast won gold awards for best new podcast and creative innovation at the Radio Academy’s Audio and Radio Industry Awards (Arias) and the couple were there to collect them.

Personal life

Burrow had two daughters and a son with his wife Lindsey (Jackson, Macy & Maya). 

On 19 December 2019, Burrow revealed that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). In January 2020, a game between Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls, originally scheduled as a testimonial match for Jamie Jones-Buchanan, took place to help raise funds in support of Burrow and his family, with Burrow himself briefly taking part in the match.

In September 2021, an appeal was launched to build a new care centre for MND patients in the Leeds area, which would be named the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease. With the help of former Leeds teammate Kevin Sinfield, over £5 million had been raised for the treatment centre as of December 2023.

Burrow was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2021 New Year Honours for services to rugby league and the motor neurone disease community and promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2024 New Year Honours for services to motor neurone disease awareness.

Burrow died at Pinderfields Hospital from complications of motor neurone disease, on 2 June 2024, aged 41, surrounded by his family and close friend Kevin Sinfield after becoming ill earlier that week. His death was announced on the Leeds Rhinos facebook page, who Burrow played his entire professional career with. 

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Rob Burrow CBE

King’s New Year’s Honours for services to Motor Neurone Disease Awareness.

Harry Sunderland Trophy

Rob became the first player to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy as the outstanding performer in two Super League Grand Finals (2007/2011).

On the pitch

8 Super League Grand Finals.

3 World Club Challenges.

2 Challenge Cups.

 

 

BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Rob was honoured with the Helen Rollason Award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022, which is given for “outstanding achievement in the face of adversity”

Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease

Since 2019, the former Leeds Rhinos player had been spearheading a £6.8 million charity appeal for Leeds Hospitals Charity, where he received care, to build the centre to support those living with the incurable disease.

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Family man

Rob loved his family:

His wonderful Lindsey and their three children Macy, Maya and Jackson who have made their father proud. He was also son/brother to parents Geoff and Irene, sisters Joanne and Claire.

A life in picture: Rob Burrow