Kevin Sinfield is a Leeds Rhinos legend, in fact he is a rugby league legend. He is now in a top job in the world of rugby union but he is above all a friend and a very good friend to former teammate Rob Burrow who has been battling Motor Neurone Disease since 2019.
Speaking on an England Rugby Union podcast, O2 Inside Line, Sinfield opened up about when he found out Burrow had MND:
“When he was diagnosed I’d gone back to Leeds as Director of Rugby, so in effect I was his boss because he was in charge of the academy having retired 12 months before.
“I noticed some things weren’t quite right with him over the series of about a month and urged him to see our club doctor, which he did.
“Probably about two weeks before he got diagnosed he told me he’d googled his symptoms, like everybody does, to sort of try and self-diagnose as we all would. He came to the conclusion it was that.”
He also spoke about how keen he was to give Burrow enough money as he spoke about a drive home from seeing Doddie Weir, the rugby union legend who helped Burrow throughout his battle:
“The car journey home was a difficult one, trying to be a mate and understand the sort of salary Rob would have earned throughout his playing career, understanding that rugby league players had to work when they finished their playing career.
“I understand that he would need some financial support, you put yourself in his shoes and you know he’s got three kids to grow up and be looked after. For his wife, Lindsey, to have nothing to worry about other than looking after Rob and the kids.
“You have that inevitable conversation of ‘I’m going to help you, we’ll pull all our old group together, our old team. We’re going to attack this.’
One way in which they helped was the testimonial game against Bradford Bulls as the likes of Burrow and Sinfield played one last time together:
“The old boys said that they’d throw their boots back on and play for the last few minutes. Rob played that day, he came on for a couple of minutes at the end which was remarkable. That raised some money but then Covid hit not long after.
“On that car journey back from Carlisle I’d promised him that by Christmas 2020, it was December 2019 at this point, we’d have a certain amount of money to look after the family but because of Covid it all stopped.
“It got to late September and we decided we were going to have to do something because I’d promised him. We came up with the idea of seven marathons in seven days, it was all about Rob, it was his squad number, lets’ try and raise £77,777.
“Before we knew it we’d raised £2.7 million. That was probably the start of it for me. What it meant was Christmas 2020 I woke up glowing, the people involved too, knowing that Rob would financially have no more worries. He could watch the kids open their Christmas presents and that was really important to me.”
Ultimately, Sinfield may be seen as a hero by many but it is Burrow who appears to be his hero:
“Rob showed me how important having fulfilment in your life is, how important helping people and caring for people is. He also showed me that sometimes you have to be uncomfortable.
“You worry and concern yourself with so many things in life that actually in reality don’t matter and my time with Rob reminds me of that. If I’m having a tough spell, we’ve had a bad loss, I’ve not performed great in a training session or I’ve said something wrong with a player, then you can rectify a lot of that. You can fix it.
“Unfortunately for Rob and the family, currently he can’t fix where he’s at and the perspective I’ve had from that and also the courage is what I’ve got from him.
“Every time I see him I come away with perspective, what we think are problems in our life, what we think are issues, but in reality they don’t matter. When I’ve been to see him it absolutely rubber-stamps what is important for people. Health is so important, showing people how much you care for them, spending time with people you love and respect. They’re the bits that are important.”