I was scrolling through Twitter yesterday when I saw a tweet from a very well respected Rugby League journalist. He was saying that the Rugby League Family notion has been under question these last few years, but basically Sunday’s events at Headingley proved once and for all it was alive and well.
The RL Family have an unbreakable bond, or so it seemed. I myself had started to question the notion too. The view I read online wasn’t necessarily that of the journalist, he was just quoting that he had heard it questioned. So was it valid and what has caused this? Well, having seen some of the comments on social media from rival fans, the nasty comments directed at players and coaches from rival clubs and reports of disturbances at games (albeit very rare), led me and many others to believe that the days where fans cared as much for the welfare of the game than they do for their club were now gone.
Well, any doubts I had about this were answered in what was an incredible day in Leeds on Sunday. The whole sport came together like no other, as fans from all clubs converged on the famous old stadium to show their support for one of the games true greats. It was very hard to watch on TV, so lord knows what it must have been like to be there. A sad day but also an inspirational one. This game wasn’t even meant to be about Rob Burrow, it was a testimonial for James Jones-Buchanan, a Leeds legend in his own right who, having seen the truly moving interview Burrow gave with Tanya Arnold, decided straight away he wanted to share his day and let the game come together for one of its own.
There wasn’t a dry eye in Headingley, or in the living rooms of the thousands watching on TV, as Burrow came onto the field with his children to the biggest cheer of the day. Whilst he is quick to stress that ‘the voice is the only thing that is different’ it showed true courage that he went onto the field in what was a full scale friendly between two great rivals. Yes the legends were on the field by now but there was certainly no holding back, Burrow even had a hand in the last tackle of the game.
Whilst the money raised, currently over £260,000, will help fund the treatment Burrow needs to fight Motor Neurone Disease, the awareness events like this raise about the condition is truly priceless. Hats of to Sky for broadcasting at such short notice and massive respect to the presenters, particularly the ones who were close to Burrow, for managing to hold it together in very difficult circumstances. Fans of all clubs were represented in Leeds as the sport came together as one. Also a special mention to everyone that went on the walk from Odsal to Headingley before the game to raise more funds and awareness for MND.
I have to make one confession, it was the legends more than the first 70 minutes I was looking forward to seeing. Stuart Fielden looked like he could still do a job at Bradford now and it was fantastic to see all these greats going at it in one of the sport’s great rivalries. Seeing Robbie Hunter-Paul going at the line, Keith Senior back in the famous blue and amber and the 2015 heroes donning the jersey one last time together, it truly was an unforgettable occasion. Rugby League isn’t an easy game to just come back on and play for obvious reasons, but the ex-players were determined to do this for one of their own. Burrow’s tweet after the game summed up the emotion of the occasion.
It’s really hard to find the words to describe today & what it meant to me & my family. No day in my sporting life could ever come close to the feeling I had today. Privileged, honoured & completely blown away to name a few. RL is the greatest sport on earth & tonight showed why
— Rob Burrow (@Rob7Burrow) January 12, 2020
So the next time I wonder if the Rugby League Family is a thing of the past, I’ll look back to Headingley on Sunday 12th January 2020 for my answer.
A truly moving but uplifting day and one that will never be forgotten.
Ps. I would also like to pass on my best wishes Mose Masoe too after the spinal injury he suffered on Sunday.