It was some way to finish an unlikely but amazing 493-game, 17-year career.
For years when he started off in 2001 he had been called too small, too little, not big enough to make it in Super League. But Rob Burrow has made a career out of proving people wrong. Just like Allan Langer and Geoff Toovey, Burrow has showed that rugby league is not all about size and weight, and that good things come in small packages. Toughness is not decided by height or strength, but by the size of your heart and your brain.
Burrow ended his days with Leeds Rhinos in style on Saturday with a surprise Super League grand final victory over Castleford at Old Trafford. It was the perfect way for this 165 centimetre, 66 kilogram utility to sign off after a tremendous career for club and country.
“Being underdogs coming in and to play that well against such a good side is really, really special,” Burrow said.
“We were determined to finish strong and I feel we’ve been building to that for the past three of four weeks. And we needed that performance tonight because any of our performances this season wouldn’t have been good enough to beat Cas.”
Burrow has been part of the furniture in a great Leeds team ever since he broke into first-grade. One hundred and ninety-eight tries shows he has always been a lethal attacking weapon with his speed and sleight of hand. Burrow played with his brain and had a great dummy and step to dazzle defences.
Along the way he claimed 20 caps for England and Great Britain, and won eight Super League grand finals, two Challenge Cups, three World Club Challenges and three League Leader’s Shields. It’s a haul of silverware that few Rhinos will ever match. Burrow might have been doubted by others in his career, but he has always believed in his own ability and in that of his team.
“You’ve just got to believe. There’s been this air of invincibility in the past, not that in any way an arrogance, but you just believe in yourself. You can’t come here dipping your toe in, you’ve got to give a performance. I think the way the system works for us it’s kind of irrelevant. If you get there, form’s irrelevant, you turn up and perform. Eight out of nine times we’ve done that. I think that’s something Leeds have got over most teams, being able to play well here.”
The 35-year old might have only got on the field in the grand final for limited minutes, giving Matt Parcell a rest. But he still managed to bust three tackles, he still managed to keep the Castleford defence on their toes until the full-time siren. Burrow’s composure, his ability to do the unpredictable and change a game will be missed. His great mate Danny McGuire is playing on next year with Hull KR, but the hooker won’t be convinced to change his mind and go round again.
“No I’m done,” he said.
“I’ve really, really enjoyed my career, I don’t want to go on too long. I’m just really happy to go out on this. You usually think about your last game in a season if it’s a poor one. The fact that we’ve won another a trophy I can live on that forever.”
The Pontefract-born product will long be remembered as one who defied the odds, and the critics, to make it on the biggest of stages. Someone who pound for pound was one of the toughest players to ever grace Super League.