Burrow inspired by Weir to raise awareness of motor neurone disease

By Ian Parkes, PA

Former Leeds Rhinos scrum-half Rob Burrow has vowed to help Doddie Weir raise awareness of motor neurone disease following “unbelievable” support from the ex-Scotland rugby union international in the wake of his own recent diagnosis.

Burrow, who retired after winning his eighth Super League Grand Final at the end of the 2017 season, announced on Thursday he was battling the illness.

But the 37-year-old is encouraged about the future after speaking this week with Weir, who won the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show on Sunday, and who released a documentary the following day on his own fight against MND, and his search for a cure.

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Doddie Weir (centre) received the Helen Rollason Award from the Princess Royal during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in Aberdeen on Sunday (Jane Barlow/PA)
Doddie Weir (centre) received the Helen Rollason Award from the Princess Royal during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in Aberdeen on Sunday (Jane Barlow/PA)

“How lucky am I to be able to meet somebody who’s in the press, has just won an award on Sunday, done a documentary on it and he’s gone out of his way for me,” said father-of-three Burrow on Weir.

“He’s done three years of work, so I’ve got it at the best time in a way. He had nothing, he had to start doing this. I can’t be better off in the circumstances really.”

Burrow, who revealed watching Weir on Sports Personality and his documentary were “very inspiring before even meeting him”, added: “In fact, if I hadn’t have met him, I was still inspired enough to kick on. Just to ask him questions was really interesting.”

Burrow is now determined to play his part alongside Weir in the ongoing struggle to combat what is at present an incurable disease.

“Listening to Doddie makes you think ‘Wow! I will be inundated with people trying to help me’,” he said.

“But as Doddie says, what would the postman do, or the guy who works at a shop? They might not get diagnosed for months.

“I got it (diagnosed) in three weeks because I was lucky that I had people who could get me private (health care). Doddie said he had it for a year before he was diagnosed.

“Because there’s no help for it, I’m more than happy to get on board with Doddie and maybe start something up down here where people can be helped.”

Claiming that speaking with Weir “was amazing”, Burrow added: “If I could do that in a year’s time for somebody that’s just started, that’s great. Awareness is massive.

“In 10 years’ time they might find a cure and heal somebody, so I’m massively keen to help. Life changes now and it’ll never be the same, but if I can do what I can with awareness and funds then I’m keen to do that.”

Burrow, who made 492 appearances as a one-club man with Leeds, as well as winning 15 caps for England and five for Great Britain, is adamant he now “just wants to get on with life”, to such an extent he will continue in his role as head coach of Leeds’ reserve team for as long as he is able.

“While I am able-bodied and feel fit, strong and healthy, I want to do normal things and not be treated any differently,” said Burrow, who was diagnosed a week ago.

“What I don’t want is pity. I think that’s the scary thing, that people feel sorry for you. I don’t want that, I just want to crack on like normal.”

Burrow, who also won the Challenge Cup in 2014 and 2015 with Leeds, as well as three World Club Challenges and three League Leaders Shields, already has the full support from many in the game.

Although Leeds director of rugby Kevin Sinfield has declared Burrow’s news to be “devastating” and “heartbreaking for Rob and his young family”, he has no doubt he will fight the disease with the same bravery he showed on the pitch.

“Throughout his career, Rob overcame the odds to become a legend of the game and I know he will tackle this challenge with the exact same positive determination,” said Sinfield.

“As a club, Rob will receive our full support and we will be working with him to chart the way forward.”

Bradford Bulls head coach John Kear said: “It’s very sad indeed. I’ve known Rob for a number of years now. He has always represented the sport with dignity, and his ability speaks for itself.

“Any support we can give Rob from the Bradford Bulls, as a coaching staff, as a playing staff, as a club, then we will give him that.

“I know Rob will fight it, and fight it with all his heart. All we can do is support him in that quest, and we will do that.”

Castleford Tigers added: “The best wishes from everybody at the Tigers go to Rob and his family. We’ll be doing what we can as a club to help support the fundraising campaign.”

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