Former team-mates lead tributes to ‘inspiration’ Rob Burrow as Leeds host Leigh

Danny Buderus can vividly recall the moment he dispatched Rob Burrow to land arguably the greatest of all Super League Grand Final tries.

The Australian’s short pass from dummy-half sent Burrow away on a muscular, mazy run from just inside his own half that left three St Helens stars floundering, sending the Rhinos on their way to the 2011 title and encapsulating Burrow’s determination to beat the odds both on and off the rugby pitch.

Buderus flew in from Australia to join over 80 ex-Leeds stars in paying tribute to the superstar scrum-half, who died after a valiant four-year battle with Motor Neurone Disease earlier this month prior to their clash with Leigh in front of one of the biggest Headingley crowds in recent years.

As the teams emerged from the tunnel, fans in the East Stand held up blue and yellow placards depicting Burrow’s initials and shirt number. Two giant banners were unfurled, one depicting Burrow’s image and the second his famous quote: “In a world full of adversity we must dare to dream.”

Buderus, who signed off from his two years at the Rhinos in the wake of that 2011 triumph, told the PA news agency: “I’m very honoured and privileged to be asked to be a part of such a special evening.

“Rob was an incredible player and I’ll never forget the sight of him moving away for that try. I had the best seat in the house – he ducked under a couple, came off his left and away he went.

“You used to see a lot of opposition game plans was to try and run at Rob, and it never worked. He stood solid and put them on their backside.

“They’re the fighting qualities Rob showed right through his career. Rob was an inspiration to all those kids who might think they don’t have an athletic build, or they’re too short. They are the same qualities he needed after he retired, and the standard he kept until the end.”

Tributes left outside the stadium (PA)
Tributes were left outside the stadium (Danny Lawson/PA)

Among the pre-match video tributes was a special message from his best friend and fund-raising titan Kevin Sinfield, who is currently in Japan with the England rugby union team. Sinfield called Burrow his “little friend”, and “the bravest and toughest man I’ve ever met”.

Burrow’s name and a large yellow number seven adorned the Headingley turf, and Leeds wore a special blue and orange kit for the game, which coincidentally took place on Global MND Awareness Day.

The shirt was designed by Cath Muir, who was diagnosed with MND in 2014, and features an image of Burrow with Sinfield. A portion of the profit from each shirt sold will be donated to the Leeds Hospitals Charity appeal to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND.

In an address to the crowd, Burrow’s father Geoff said: “It’s a very emotional night, especially because Leeds v Leigh was the first game I brought Rob to. He loved every minute.

“I wish he could have seen this crowd. He had a fabulous sense of humour. He was cheeky. He was a lovely lad, and I’ll miss him so much.”