Rob Burrow will be at the forefront of the Leeds players’ minds when they run out at Wembley on Saturday, says his former team-mate and protege Liam Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe was nurtured as a teenager by Burrow in his role of Leeds’ scholarship coach and went on to play alongside him, most notably in 2014 when the Rhinos ended their 15-year wait to get their hands on the famous Challenge Cup.
Leeds coach Richard Agar dedicated his team’s semi-final cup win over Wigan to Burrow, who is battling with Motor Neurone Disease, and Sutcliffe says he will be a source of inspiration against Salford Red Devils on Saturday.
“He’s massive inspiration,” Sutcliffe said. “Just looking at the stuff he’s doing now for MND, it’s testament to him how he’s staying so positive in these tough times.
“He’s in our thoughts, we always think about Rob and hopefully we can win a trophy for him.
“He’s helped me massively in my career. He was my scholarship coach when I was 15 and 16 and I was a half-back coming through then so he was great for me.
“As soon I came into the first team he was massive for me as well. To go on and play alongside him was a bit of weird experience because he’d been coaching me only two years before.”
A moving documentary, ‘Rob Burrow: My Year With MND’, will be shown on BBC Two on Tuesday from 7.00pm.
— Sally Nugent (@sallynugent) October 9, 2020
The half-hour documentary follows the 5ft 5in former scrum-half as he displays the same spirit in his fight against the incurable disease as he showed in adversity on the rugby field.
“I have too many reasons to live,” he says. “I’m not giving in until my last breath.”
The film follows his trips to see the specialist and includes moving interviews with his parents, wife Lindsey – his childhood sweetheart – and former team-mates Kevin Sinfield and Barrie McDermott.
The former England international, who turned 38 in September, says his mind “is so strong and positive” but there is clear evidence that the disease is taking its toll on his body as he struggles for mobility and speech.
I am totally honoured and happy to share my insight into what its like living with MND. It’s all about the awareness and one day we will find a cure. https://t.co/VA3k7xYdVW
— Rob Burrow (@Rob7Burrow) October 7, 2020
Burrow, who has three young children, was prompted to raise awareness for research into the condition, including regular appearances on BBC Breakfast, after a meeting with former Scotland rugby union international and fellow MND sufferer Doddie Weir.
Burrow was diagnosed with the degenerative disease barely two years after ending his stellar playing career by helping Leeds to a record-extending eighth Super League Grand Final in 2017.