Rob Burrow’s ‘Herculean’ career to be commemorated at Challenge Cup final day

Rob Burrow’s rugby league legacy will be the focal point of Saturday’s Challenge Cup final day at Wembley with a series of tributes lined up in his honour.

The Leeds Rhinos great, who won the Challenge Cup twice during a glittering playing career, died at the age of 41 after a four-and-a-half year battle with Motor Neurone Disease.

A minute’s silence will be staged prior to both the men’s and women’s finals while a minute’s applause will also take place in the seventh minute of each match – Burrow wore the number seven shirt for Leeds – as well as the schools and 1895 Cup finals.

RL Commercial’s managing director Rhodri Jones said: “Saturday provides us with an opportunity to celebrate Rob’s life.

“All eight competing teams will show their respect for Rob and their support for the battle he championed against Motor Neurone Disease.”

Daryl Powell, who coached Burrow when he started out in the Leeds academy, and handed the 5ft 5in scrum-half his full debut in his first match as head coach in 2001, hailed Burrow’s “Herculean” career.

“I remember seeing him come training when he was a scholarship player and thinking, ‘this kid is a bit small’,” Powell, whose Wakefield side will contest the 1895 Cup final against Sheffield Eagles at Wembley, told the PA news agency.

Darryl Powell
Darryl Powell (pictured) handed Rob Burrow his full Leeds debut in 2001 (Gareth Copley/PA)

“Then I saw him training and realised what a phenomenal prospect he was. As he grew as a player he was outstanding, and his ability to beat an opponent was second to none.

“Once Rob got that number seven shirt, which has become iconic with his name attached to it, he never looked back.

“He had an unbelievable career, going to finals and tearing teams to shreds.

“He was such a tough young man. To play rugby league when you’re Rob’s size you need to have an unbelievable, Herculean spirit to be able to do that, and he had that for sure.”

Warrington head coach Sam Burgess, who played alongside Burrow for England and the British Lions, said his former team-mate had displayed “the heart of a thousand lions”.

Burrow’s battle had a personal element for Burgess, who lost his own father, Mark, to Motor Neurone Disease in 2007.

Burgess, who will lead his side out against Wigan in the Challenge Cup final, said: “Rob attacked the adversity in his life in the same way he did his sport.

“He defied the laws of physics. He had the heart of a lion as a player, but the heart of a thousand lions fighting MND, and we should all take a moment to reflect on that, and what a special guy Rob was.

“I can appreciate more than most the impact that Rob has had on the MND community, and this week we will be able to ensure that Rob gets the plaudits he deserves.”

Leeds will be represented at Wembley in the women’s final as they attempt to prevent rivals St Helens from claiming a fourth women’s Challenge Cup final in a row. And Leeds winger and vice-captain Caitlin Beevers stressed the impact that Burrow had on her own career.

“I grew up watching the golden era at Leeds, and when I started playing I was a half-back in the boys’ game, so Rob was always someone I aspired to be.

“He was a great man on and off the field, and he did everything he could to help all of us as we began our Leeds careers.”