Rugby League Star Rob Burrow Dies From Motor Neuron Disease at Age 41

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
June 3, 2024Sports News
Rugby League Star Rob Burrow Dies From Motor Neuron Disease at Age 41
Rob Burrow of England in action during the Rugby League World Cup Group A match at the KC Stadium in Hull, England on Nov. 9, 2013. (Paul Thomas/Getty Images)

Rugby legend Rob Burrow passed away after a four-and-a-half-year battle with motor neurone disease (MND), the Leeds Rhinos confirmed on Sunday.

The father of three passed away peacefully at Pinderfield’s Hospital after becoming unwell earlier this week.

Mr. Burrow was given two years to live when he was diagnosed with MND in 2019—two years after he retired from a successful 17-season rugby league career that won him eight league titles and numerous accolades.

After his diagnosis, Mr. Burrow and his family made the decision to go public in order to raise awareness about the currently incurable neurodegenerative disease.

Aided and supported by his friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield, Mr. Burrow raised nearly 20 million pounds ($25 million) in fundraising across the UK and Ireland for the MND community, including 6 million pounds ($7.6 million) to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND in Leeds, to help those with the disease have a better quality of life.

As part of the fundraising, which inspired two award winning documentaries, Mr. Burrow hosted an award winning podcast and published several books, including a best-selling autobiography and, most recently, a children’s book about friendship.

Mr. Sinfield’s fundraising efforts revolved around a series of epic endurance challenges, including completing seven ultra-marathons over seven days through pouring rain and stormy winds.

In January, Prince William came down to Leeds to surprise the two with CBE honors—Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire—praising their “phenomenal” efforts.

After the news of Mr. Burrows’ passing broke, the Prince of Wales paid his tributes on X, describing him as a “legend” with “huge heart”.

“He taught us, ‘in a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream’,” the Prince wrote, citing the late athlete’s famous catchphrase.

“Rob has always been a true inspiration throughout his life whether that was on the rugby league field or during his battle with MND. He never allowed others to define what he could achieve and believed in his own ability to do more,” the family wrote in a message posted on the Rhinos’ website.

“Rob may have left us, but he leaves us with memories that will last forever, whether they be highlights of a glittering playing career or his courageous and very public battle with MND,” wrote Rugby Football League chair Simon Johnson, who praised Mr. Burrow’s wife Lindsey for emerging as “a tower of astonishing strength” amidst the family’s tribulation.

“In health, Rob famously defied his physical limitations,” Mr. Johnson said as he reminisced Mr. Burrow’s brilliant performance on the playing field. “In sickness, Rob typically defied MND for far longer than his initial diagnosis suggested.”

During his career, Mr. Burrows made 492 appearances for Leeds Rhinos, 15 for England, and five for Great Britain. As one of the stars of Leeds’ “golden generation,” he enjoyed the admiration of supporters of all clubs, winning eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cup finals, three World Club Challenge finals, and three League Leaders Shields.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.