There'll Never Be Another Rob Burrow: Rivals Join Forces For Rugby League Legend

Rob Burrow will be at the heart of Saturday night’s Magic Weekend derby between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers
16:05, 08 Jul 2022

The local boy who became a Leeds legend.

Rob Burrow will be at the heart of Saturday night’s Magic Weekend derby between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers, as rugby league again pays tribute to one of its most treasured sons.

Castleford captain Paul McShane, Burrow’s mate, says the iconic scrum half was a rugby league one-off.

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Burrow was born, raised and lives in Pontefract, just up the road from Cas. McShane came through the Leeds academy and starred alongside Burrow at Headingley. The England hooker idolised the man he now counts as a close friend.

“I don’t think there will be another Rob Burrow,” McShane told me this week.

“His mindset was that everything he did he wanted to win. He was so strong in everything, such a competitor, a winner."

That sporting psychology has travelled with Burrow into his biggest ever fight, gripped by the devastating brutality of MND since his diagnosis at the end of 2019.  

His 5’5” frame has a giant inside. The heart of a lion, the spirit of a warrior. He has shown the belief, strength and positivity in adversity that made him pound-for-pound the toughest bloke to ever play the game. And that has made him universally loved in attacking his plight head on. 

The pint-sized powerhouse from Pontefract has the nation's hearts and respect in equal measure, and that is on top of his staggering list of rugby achievements, against all odds. 

“It is going to be very emotional,” admits Rhinos coach Rohan Smith, whose uncle Tony Smith is, according to Burrow, the greatest coach he ever played for. 

500 Games On, Tony Smith Pays Tribute To 'Pound For Pound' Great Rob Burrow

“Rob was such a great player and defied everything. To do what he did was phenomenal as a player.

“I realise what we are representing here as a club, all those who have come before us. The impact Rob has had on the club and the city is phenomenal. We want to do him and his family justice.” 

Burrow won eight Grand Finals, three World Club Challenges and two Challenge Cups. 

His daughters Macy and Maya will talk to the team before the game before leading Leeds out onto the field in their dad’s honour. They designed the special number 7 jersey to be worn by the players at St James’ Park. 

The Tigers will also wear a tribute shirt to Burrow printed with his RB7 logo, with donations from each shirt sale going to the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Leeds Hospitals Charity.

“I’m chuffed to bits that the club has done this shirt for Rob,” McShane adds, in a heartfelt tribute to his mate on the Love Rugby League podcast this week.

“As a young kid coming through Rob was a star and one of the first blokes to put his arm around you. 

“What he is doing now is inspirational. He is positive in everything he does and that just sums up Rob, he never lets anything get him down. It’s very hard to talk about but he is a champion. 

“As a player the big thing for me was that he was just like any normal bloke. He would sit, talk to you, have a laugh and mess about and as a kid you are star-struck with that. He would help anyone out. On the field he was a freak and could do absolutely anything, tackle anything and score tries out of nothing.”

While the game will be dripping with emotion, it is also a contest with a lot at stake.

Frustratingly for McShane, a one-match ban means he'll be watching on from the sidelines. 

Under Lee Radford, Castleford endured a dismal start to the season but have since found some playoff form, with three wins on the spin suddenly seeing the Tigers breathing down the necks of the top four. 

Their upturn in fortunes has coincided with a new-found defensive resolution – Classy Cas have become stubborn to break down too, and they head to Magic Weekend occupying 5th place in the Betfred Super League table, five points clear of the Rhinos. 

If the Tigers win they will not be seeing Leeds in their rear-view mirror.

Leeds have enjoyed an upturn too since Smith’s arrival but continue to find trouble along the way, with a worrying streak of ill-discipline so far thwarting their attempts to mount any serious playoff bid.  

Their stunning demolition of Hull FC last week will have served as a major shot of confidence and belief, with the Rhinos now more likely looking at the playoff places above them rather than the relegation dogfight between Wakefield and Toulouse beneath them.

Win, lose or draw, the battle will be as fierce as the fighting spirit that both clubs are representing, on a day of pride and support for one of the sport's finest people.

Betfred's Magic Weekend Odds*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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