Rob Burrow was ‘loving, kind and caring’, wife says

The wife of Rob Burrow has described him as “loving, kind and caring” and vowed to keep his legacy alive, one day after his death was announced.

In a moving tribute, Lindsey Burrow said she and the family were all “deeply saddened by the loss”.

Ex-rugby league player Burrow died at the age of 41 after a four-and-a-half-year battle with motor neurone disease.

In a statement released through Leeds Rhinos, Mr Burrow’s former club, his wife said: “I was incredibly proud and fortunate to call Rob my husband.

“I am unbelievably proud of the campaigning he’s done to raise awareness and the millions of pounds that have been raised in his name for MND charities.

“I would like to thank the Rugby League community and everyone for their outpouring of love and support since Rob’s diagnosis. I truly appreciate every message of support, and fundraising that has been done.

“My priority is to make Rob proud, and to bring our three children up as Rob would want and ensure their happiness and well-being.

“We will continue to keep Rob’s legacy alive. We will continue to ‘bang the drum’ and do our best to try and help others.

“Although we knew this day would arrive, I am somehow still feeling at a loss for words that our loving, kind and caring husband and father has departed.

“However, we take comfort from how much people’s love and continued support meant to Rob through his most vulnerable times.

“He was simply the best.”

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.

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.

On Monday, the groundbreaking of the Rob Burrow Centre for MND at Seacroft Hospital went ahead as planned at Burrow’s request, with his family saying he “would be looking down and smiling”.

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Rob Burrow died nearly five years after his MND diagnosis (Danny Lawson/PA)

Burrow’s close friend and former team-mate Kevin Sinfield attended the ceremony, along with Burrow’s parents Geoff and Irene Burrow, and his sisters Joanne Hartshorn and Claire Burnett.

Geoff Burrow wiped away a tear as a minute’s silence was held in his son’s memory, before being one of six people to put the first spades in the ground on the site.

The family said Burrow would have wanted them to be there as construction work started on the state-of-the-art purpose-built care centre.

Mrs Burrow told reporters: “I said this is what Rob would want and I think he’d be proud that we all pulled ourselves together and got the strength to come, and we’re doing it for Lindsey and the kids.

“He’ll be looking down on us and he’ll be going ‘thumbs up’. We’re so proud to be here and it’s amazing what you can achieve.”

Mr Burrow said: “It’s amazing what a little man can achieve. You can achieve big things.

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Geoff Burrow (left), Rob Burrow’s father, and Dr Agam Jung, a consultant neurologist and lead in Rob’s clinical care team, during a ground breaking ceremony at the new Rob Burrow Centre for MND (Danny Lawson/PA)

“As Rob says, in a world full of adversity you must dare to dream. We’re dreaming of when this opens.”

Ms Hartshorn said the family had been overwhelmed by the tributes to her brother.

“Seeing the outpouring of love on the TV, at Headingley. In a weird way I’ve just done nothing but smile all morning.

“It’s giving us the courage today because that’s what Rob would have wanted. He wanted us to be here today. Last night we were wondering how on earth we were going to be able to do that, but the outpouring of love and everybody’s support has been unbelievable.”

The family paid tribute to Mr Sinfield as a “tremendous guy,” with Mr Burrow saying: “I think what Kevin’s done, everybody else in the world will be looking and valuing their friends a whole lot more.”

Before his death Burrow had spearheaded a £6.8 million charity appeal for Leeds Hospitals Charity, where he received care, for a centre for those with MND living in and around the city.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan visits Headingley Stadium to pay tribute to former teammate Rob Burrow
Jamie Jones-Buchanan visits Headingley Stadium to pay tribute to former teammate Rob Burrow (Danny Lawson/PA)

Since Burrow’s death was announced on Sunday evening, the appeal has received around 1,000 donations.

Mr Burrow said the family would carry on with his son’s work and spoke of his hope that a cure for the disease would be found.

“I wish we’d have got it before he passed, but we will get it, for him and all the poor families suffering with MND.

“He’ll be smiling, thinking ‘keep checking on them dad, make sure they keep digging’.”

Well-wishers gathered outside Headingley Stadium in Yorkshire, the home of his team Leeds Rhinos, on Monday morning to pay their respects, laying flowers, scarves and other tributes.

Rugby league coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan, a former team-mate of Burrow, recalled the first time the two met.

He told the PA news agency: “I was working on a sports exhibition (at the Royal Armouries) and he come in with a school.

“I explained what they should be doing and he didn’t take a blind bit of notice – which was just to bat some balls back, and he smashed them all over the place and I spent all afternoon picking them up.

“I thought this Rob Burrow’s a little so-and-so, and that was the character that Rob was.

“Throughout his career he was the centre of the changing room, he was where the fun and a lot of the laughter came from.”

Mr Jones-Buchanan said Burrow was an “unassuming lad with a superhero origin story” and that he “brought a gift to the club”.

He added: “A gift that most people thought was a weakness because he was tiny, but he used that weakness to be a superhero, that was his strength.

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Members of the public pay tribute and view flowers and messages left at Headingley Stadium in Leeds, following the death of former Leeds Rhino player Rob Burrow who had MND (Danny Lawson/PA)

“He was world class, so quick, powerful, strong, elusive, brave, courageous on so many occasions on the rugby league field, and inspired so many people, they loved him.”

Burrow spent his entire rugby league career with Leeds Rhinos and helped them win eight Super League titles.

Two years after his retirement in 2017, Burrow revealed his MND diagnosis and began fundraising and campaigning to raise awareness of the disease and to improve care and research.

Burrow was made an MBE in the 2021 New Year Honours list for his services to rugby league and the MND community and was promoted to a CBE in the 2024 New Year Honours.