Rob Burrow: Who is the Leeds Rhinos rugby legend living with motor neurone disease?

Burrow spent most of his professional career playing for Leeds Rhinos. Credit: PA Images

Rugby legend Rob Burrow was born in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, on 26 September 1982.

After getting involved in the sport at a young age, he went on to have a successful 16 years on the pitch, before becoming a high-profile figure in the motor neurone disease (MND) community following his own diagnosis.

Here's a detailed look at the career, life and legacy of Rob Burrow.

  • Burrow's rugby career

It was in 2001 that Burrow began what would be a 16-year professional career, mostly spent with Leeds Rhinos in rugby league's Super League. He went on to make 400 appearances.

Burrow made 400 appearances during his 16-year professional career. Credit: PA Images

At 5ft 5ins tall, and weighing less than 11 stone, he was known for many years as "the smallest player in Super League".

Despite this, he was one of the most successful in the competition's history, winning eight championships, two Challenge Cups, being named in the Super League Dream Team on three occasions, and winning the Harry Sunderland Trophy twice.

Burrow retired from the sport in 2017.

'Bit of a shock' - Burrow speaking to ITV News in 2019

  • Motor neurone disease diagnosis

Burrow revealed he had been diagnosed with MND on 19 December 2019.

Also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), MND is when nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord – called motor neurones – stop functioning properly. This causes the muscles to weaken, stiffen and waste, which can affect how someone with the condition walks, talks, eats, drinks and breathe.

MND is life-shortening and there is currently no cure, however symptoms can be managed to help the achieve the best quality of life. At the time of his diagnosis, Burrow was given two years to live.

Around 5,000 adults in the UK are affected by it at any one time, and there is also a one in 300 risk of getting MND across a lifetime. Though it can affect adults of any age, it is more likely to affect those over 50.

Burrow with Kevin Sinfield after completing the Extra Mile Challenge from Leicester to Leeds. Credit: PA Images
  • Campaigning and fundraising

Alongside close friend and former Leeds and England captain, Kevin Sinfield, Burrow has completed several charity challenges, including the Leeds 10k, in a specially adapted wheelchair.

Sinfield has taken part in numerous fundraisers for MND research - including running seven marathons in seven days - raising millions of pounds.

After Burrow once described a government commitment to plough an extra £50 million into MND research a "game changer", he's since been openly critical of ministers for not standing by their pledges - even accusing them of having "blood on their hands".

His father, Geoff, admitted he was "frustrated" about the delay, adding: "People with MND can't wait this length of time".

Burrow was given an MBE for his services to Rugby League and the MND community. Credit: PA Images
  • MBE and other achievements

In December 2020, Burrow was awarded an MBE for services to rugby league and the MND community as part of the New Year's Honours List. Sinfield received an OBE in 2022 for the part he played in fundraising.

Burrow added another achievement to his list in 2021 when he was made an Honorary Doctor of Sport Science at Leeds Beckett University. This is normally given to individuals whose achievements reflect the value or the university, or those who have made a positive impact on the region.

A mural of Burrow was also unveiled in Leeds during the pandemic, alongside an inspirational quote of his: "In a world full of adversity we must dare to dream."

Rob Burrow with his children Macy, Maya and Jackson. Credit: PA Images
  • Family life

Burrow met his now-wife Lindsey when they were teenagers. They have three children together - Macy, Maya and Jackson.

In October 2022, they appeared in a BBC documentary which explained how they've adjusted to life after the MND diagnosis.

In it, Macy described her dad as being "inspirational" and her "hero", adding that she wants to "do him proud".

"He inspires me how he keeps going, and he'll keep fighting until his last breath," she said.

Help and support

If you want to know more about Motor Neurone Disease and the support that's available, visit www.mndassociation.org or call 0808 802 6262.

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