Rob Burrow ‘superhuman courage is in all of us’, says mental health coach

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“Superhuman” courage shown by Rob Burrow who died after a four-and-a-half-year battle with motor neurone disease is hidden inside all of us, a mental health expert said.

Ex-rugby league player Burrow’s fundraising efforts in tandem with former Rhinos team-mate Kevin Sinfield touched people well beyond the sport.

They spearheaded a £6.8million charity appeal for Leeds Hospitals Charity where the 41-year-old received care.

Sinfield paid tribute to his friend, calling him a “superhuman superman”.

Oliver Thompson, a high performance coach, author and wellbeing specialist, said: “There are lessons to be learnt for all of us from Rob’s experience.

“At a time when mental health issues are on the rise, to a point where it effects one in six of us, people need tools to empower themselves in times of adversity.

“There are two uncomfortable truths in life that we have to accept. Our life will eventually end and, whilst we are here, there will be challenges to face, some big, some small.

“Rob was a shining light in facing up to difficulty and reframing the situation so that he could put all of his remaining energy into designing a legacy that could help others. We all have that superhuman inside of us.“

Leeds will celebrate the life of former player Burrow at their match against Leigh on Friday, which is Global MND Awareness Day.

Burrow made nearly 500 appearances for the Rhinos and his former team-mates will return to Headingley to remember their friend.

Mr Thompson has spent the last 25 years helping people and businesses including Warner Bros, Mastercard, the NHS, BMW and Costa Coffee become “happy, healthy and successful”.

He is passionate about tackling male wellbeing in light of the high suicide rate of young men.

Oliver Thompson (Supplied)
Oliver Thompson (Supplied)

“I know first-hand life is never as easy as we are led to believe,” Mr Thompson from Watford, Hertfordshire.

“We all lose loved ones, experience financial challenges and have that friend with health challenges.

“During my own lifetime, I have navigated all three and come out the other side with great wisdom and lessons learnt.”

Mr Thompson, who shares his insights though his Business Brain programme, says stigma around male mental health, the concept of “alpha males” and “toxic masculinity” highlight the societal pressures that often deter men from being open.

He said: “The notion that the alpha male suggests that men must always exhibit dominance, control and emotional stoicism, which can discourage them from seeking help or expressing vulnerability.

“Toxic masculinity reinforces these harmful stereotypes, promoting behaviours that can lead to mental deterioration.

“This paradox is evident in how men are expected to be both resilient and emotionally closed off, a combination that can lead to internal conflicts and heightened stress.

“Encouraging not only men, but all of us, to challenge these outdated concepts and to update our mental software is crucial in both our personal and work life.”

Mr Thompson says people should align themselves to a sense of purpose, switch the daily pursuit of perfection for progress in their ambitions instead and “remember this is your story and you are the star of your own show”.

He added: “Actually, not only are you the star, but you are the director.

“Rob Burrow showed us that regardless of circumstances, you can visualise your life, adjust and keep adapting. Change the angle and change the meaning.”

For anyone who needs help, Samaritans can be contacted for free on 116 123, emailed at, or visit to find your nearest branch.