Watch even one of the TV packages featuring Rob Burrow over the last three years and the waterworks will not be far behind. His inspirational approach to battling Motor Neurone Disease has captivated the sporting nation. And alongside him every step of the way has been Kevin Sinfield.
On Wednesday night the two Leeds Rhinos legends were honoured by the BBC for their phenomenal achievements since Burrow’s diagnosis in late 2019. Rob was named the Helen Rollason Award winner for the way he has tackled MND head-on and brought increased publicity to the fight to find a cure for the life-limiting illness.
And Sinfield was given a special award in light of his extraordinary fundraising activities, which have seen him run more than 500 miles over the course of numerous challenges which have raised in excess of £7 million for the MND community.
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Burrow’s story has been told in front of the eyes of the United Kingdom, with his decision very soon after his diagnosis to go public with his fight resulting in a number of tear-jerking documentaries which have charted the gradual decline of his health. The country has watched as he has become a prisoner in his own body, relying on wife Lindsey to help him perform the most basic of functions. He now speaks through a hi-tech computer he operates through a keyboard controlled by his eyes.
But all the while, he has shown incredible bravely. Inspired by the late former Scotland rugby union international Doddie Weir, who lost his own five-year struggle with MND in November, Burrow has remarkably retained a smile on his face at every turn. What he has done for the MND community is simply immeasurable.
“I am totally overcome with this award thanks to the amazing people who have won this before, in particular my MND hero Doddie Weir,” Burrow said on the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year show. “What a fantastic guy he was, I don’t think I would be here today without meeting him less than a week into my diagnosis. I will accept the award on his behalf.
“I am inspired to keep going by my friend Kevin Sinfield, the guy who made the impossible possible.”
Sinfield has been the best mate anyone could hope for through the whole ordeal. In November 2020 he ran seven marathons in seven days, then the following year he raised over £1m for the MND Association by running 101 miles in under 24 hours. Last month he completed seven ultramarathons in consecutive days, finishing at Old Trafford during the Rugby League World Cup final.
And he has been cheered on by Burrow every step of the way.
“Rob is probably the most inspirational bloke in the UK at this moment in time,” Sinfield said upon receiving his own award. “He has inspired us all to be better friends, and I think in sport – but certainly in rugby of either code – the connections you make throughout your playing careers, the camaraderie, the team-mates you get, the friends don’t just stop when the whistle goes.
“Doddie used to say a lot that MND isn’t incurable, it’s just underfunded. We’ve got to all keep fighting. These people need us, and their families need us. We’ll keep banging the drum and doing our best.”
After paying tribute to his wife Lindsey and his three young kids, Burrow was adamant that the battle for the whole MND community will go on until his last breath.
“Lastly, this is for all the MND warriors out there. We will not stop. We will find a cure.”
It is heart-breaking yet life-affirming to watch Burrow and Sinfield continue to do so much brilliant work in the bid to ensure that nobody has to go through what the magnificent number seven and his captain and best mate have experienced in the past few years.
Rugby league aficionados have been dubbing Sinfield ‘Sir Kev’ for years, and it has long been obvious that both he and Burrow deserve knighthoods for the attention they are drawing to the debilitating, deadly nature of Motor Neurone Disease.
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