Rugby league referee Dennis Spagarino passes away with MND

For better or for worse, Motor Neurone Disease and rugby league will now forever be linked because of Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow.

In some ways this is good as it has brought to the light the difficulties of the disease to a new group of people. The rugby league community is now supporting the MND community terrifically helping raise money and awareness.

But it is of course heart breaking to see Burrow battle the disease he was diagnosed with back in December 2019.

He, along with former skipper Kevin Sinfield, have led the fight against MND in England from a rugby league point of view with Sinfield raising £7 million with three challenges running seven marathons in seven days, 101 miles in 24 hours and recently running seven ultramarathons in a week.

But over in Australia it was a referee who has been fighting MND.

Dennis Spagarino was a former referee down under but sadly passed away on Monday after a battle with MND.

He coached junior referees for decades, was a video referee and became Chairman of the NSW Referees Association so the referees we see take charge of Rugby League World Cup Finals, like Ashley Klein, NRL Grand Finals and State of Origin are part of his legacy.

Spagarino, aged 62, was a life member of both the Referees Association and NSW Rugby League.

When former Prime Minister John Howard brought in the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium, Spagarino was among the first recipients.

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