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Remembering rugby league’s most emotional fixture on its anniversary

January is typically the type when pre-season gets under way and that will be the case this weekend when 12 teams get their 2023 started and with those pre-season friendlies come testimonial games.

Today, 12th January 2023, marks three years since one of the sport’s most memorable and emotional testimonials took place at Headingley.

That game was of course Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s testimonial to mark his years of service to Leeds Rhinos but the game also served as a final run-out for one of Rhinos’ most legendary players of the Super League era.

Just over three weeks prior to JJB’s testimonial his former team mate Rob Burrow had announced that he was battling Motor Neurone Disease in an emotional interview that he provided to BBC News, with his best mate Kevin Sinfield by his side.

Since that emotional reveal that Burrow was battling MND he’s gone on to raise incredible awareness with Sinfield helping to raise millions of pounds via his fundraising efforts and marathon running.

Just yesterday the duo received their ‘Freedom of the City of Leeds’ with Burrow in attendance alongside his wife Lindsey at the moving ceremony.

Back to JJB’s testimonial, it then doubled up as a game to honour and raise awareness for Burrow and his ensuing battle with MND with the incredibly emotional scene that saw the little number seven enter the field to a huge Headingley applause.

The score in the end was irrelevant as the game marked something much more but the match did see Leeds Rhinos run out as 34-10 victors over Bradford Bulls in front of a sold-out Headingley.

One Twitter user marked the occasion and shared images of the game with the likes of Burrow, Sinfield, Jones-Buchanon, Jamie Peacock and Danny McGuire among others present.

It’s highly unlikely that there was a dry eye in the house as Burrow took to the field, especially so after the game when he was joined by his infant son and two young daughters.

The selflessness of JJB to immediately offer up his testimonial as a way to help Burrow and raise awareness for his condition highlighted what made that so-called ‘Golden Generation’ so incredible.

The tight-knit bond and unity among those men is something to be heralded and it continues to this day as Burrow and Sinfield, and plenty of others, continue to campaign for more funding to help cure this horrible disease.

A monumental day in rugby league history which goes to show that testimonial and pre-season games can sometimes mean ten times more than a competitive league game.

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