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“He used his gift to find a purpose” – A tribute to Rob Burrow from Jamie Jones-Buchanan

Rob Burrow JJB

Tributes continue to flood in for Rob Burrow after his passing aged 41 following his four-and-a-half year battle with Motor Neurone Disease, with the latest heartfelt dedication coming from Leeds Rhinos’ teammate Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

Diagnosed in December 2019, Rob Burrow took on the odds and beat them, fighting almost five years against a condition that typically wins after just two to three years. That was no surprise though, Rob Burrow had spent his life overcoming the odds in his rugby league career and it was no different in his fight against MND. That was a fight that he sadly lost yesterday, aged 41.

Burrow became a beacon of light and hope, an inspirational fundraiser and a symbol of what it means to love and be loved. He and his family bravely opened their doors up to showcase what life with MND is like, and in doing so have touched the hearts of millions, whilst also helping to raise millions of pounds.

A chunk of that money will go towards the building of the Rob Burrow Centre for MND, of which the first shovel is set to hit the ground today to commence the development. That will continue with Leeds Rhinos confirming that it was Rob’s wish to ensure that happened, despite his sad passing.

That team first attitude was a mark of the man, a man that former teammate Jamie Jones-Buchanan has now labelled as “an amazing human being” who “used his gift to find a purpose”.

“A life well-lived” – Jamie Jones-Buchanan pays tribute to Rob Burrow

Rob Burrow Jamie Jones-Buchanan

Credit: Imago Images

BBC Breakfast have documented Rob Burrow’s fight against MND, doing so brilliantly, and today was supposed to be the day they documented the groundbreaking at Seacroft Hospital to mark the first work on the Rob Burrow Centre for MND.

That will still occur but the event will be tinged with grief and sadness, but also warm memories with those present set to recall the amazing memories that Rob left behind. Former teammate Jamie Jones-Buchanan recalled some of those as he paid tribute to Leeds’ iconic number seven on BBC Breakfast this morning.

“He was an amazing human being, and he had a gift, and he used that gift to find a purpose, and that purpose was to do what Rob did, be courageous, be world-class,” Jones-Buchanan said.

“We spoke many times about how small he was and how people as a young person doubted his ability to play in the league and he used that strength, that gift to prove not just everybody wrong but that was his superpower.”

Recalling his incredible try against St Helens in the 2011 Grand Final, JJB reflected on the attitude of Burrow and the willingness to take a shot for his teammates, something he’d do during his diagnosis in what Jones-Buchanan described as the ‘second chapter’ of his life with Burrow continually fighting to raise funds and awareness to combat MND.

“That try that he scored in 2011 that we see played so often, probably the best try in a Grand Final. I remember him reflecting on that and talking about the fact that he was either going to take on Tony Puleta, the big guy that he looks under, and score a try and burn him or get knocked in the next week. Rob, as you know, got knocked in the next week on many occasions but he’d do that for his teammates that’s what he gave and on that occasion, he scored a try and it became an iconic moment.

“I think that was a true reflection of what Rob brought to Leeds Rhinos where he found that belonging. We loved him and we do love him and all the sentiments, the well wishes and the love that’s been pouring in remembering Rob, I think it’s just a testament to two chapters of a life that’s been well-lived.”

Rob Burrow’s “uncountable legacy”

Rob Burrow Centre for MND

Credit: Imago Images

Jones-Buchanan continued his poignant recollection of the man that rugby league fans adored and the general public came to love and admire too. Speaking on that ‘second chapter’ and the last four-and-a-half years of Burrow’s life, his former teammate gave a fitting tribute to a man whose achievements are simply too great to put into words.

“He was brave, he was courageous, he spoke out in a world that lacks a lot of courage where a lot of people live with anxiety. I think that physical ability was his superpower and that’s what shone but that was robbed of him living with MND, however, the courage never waned at all. In fact, if anything it shone even brighter.

“The love and the impression that is left on everybody to get up and to speak and fight for what’s important for the MND community remains. Doing it with his teammates, not least Kev, has just transcended rugby league and earned the support of the nation.

“The legacy that he’ll leave and the people that he’s impressed so many important things on, it’s just been uncountable.

“When we reflect on our life, we ask questions about what lessons that we’ve learned and the lessons we’ve learned through Rob, the inspiration that he’s been will continue.

“The memories of Kev coming in here and seeing him, living out this journey from 15th of December 2019 when I first heard about it, right up to 2nd of June 2024, those two days and what happened in between will never leave me. It charges me every single day, not just me, all of us, who wear that blue and amber badge.

“It’s also transcended Rugby League and the Rugby League community, who continues to come together, but everybody in the north of England, the whole of England, to remember Rob and what he’s done, why he’s done it and what we need to keep doing to make sure that it is a legacy that Rob’s left and a life fulfilled.”

For information on the Rob Burrow Centre for MND and how to donate, click here.

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