'Beacon of hope' - Sinfield's tribute to friend Burrow

Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow hug
Sinfield and Burrow both played more than 400 times for Leeds Rhinos [PA Media]

Kevin Sinfield paid tribute to Rob Burrow, describing his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate who has died aged 41 as a "beacon of hope and inspiration".

Rugby league legend Burrow passed away on Sunday following a four-and-a-half-year battle with motor neurone disease (MND).

As friends and former Leeds team-mates, Sinfield and Burrow raised millions together for charity to raise awareness and fund research into MND.

"Today was the day that I hoped would never come," said Sinfield. "The world has lost a great man and a wonderful friend to so so many."

Burrow and Sinfield were both made CBEs in the 2024 New Year Honours. The pair have helped to raise more than £15m for MND charities since Burrow's diagnosis in 2019.

"You fought so bravely until the end and became a beacon of hope and inspiration, not only for the MND community but for all those who saw and heard your story," said Sinfield.

He said Burrow would "continue to inspire me every single day".

Sinfield added: "I would always say that you were pound for pound the toughest player I ever played alongside, however since your diagnosis, you were the toughest and bravest man I have ever met."

He signed off his tribute by saying: "I will miss you my little mate, all my love, Kev x."

Sinfield has raised millions alone for MND research by undertaking a series of endurance challenges.

Last year he completed seven ultra-marathons over seven days in seven cities, including Dublin, Edinburgh and Birmingham, raising over £825,000.

The tight-knit pair also launched the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon, which took place for the second time last month.

Earlier this year, Burrow and Sinfield contributed to a picture book which told the story of a friendship between two young boys named Rob and Kev.

In 2022, Burrow was presented with the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year ceremony, with Sinfield also recognised with a special award.

Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow with Prince William

Fans gathered outside Headingley Stadium, home of Leeds Rhinos, on Sunday to pay tribute to Burrow.

Current Leeds second-row forward Cameron Smith, who played alongside Burrow before he retired in 2017, was among the supporters to pay his respects to his former team-mate.

"It's a really emotional night. I think it's amazing with the amount of people who have come to show their respects,” the 25-year-old told Sky Sports.

"I was lucky enough to get a couple of games with him. He was my academy coach and he taught me a lot about the game, and how to be a good team-mate and a good bloke.

"He was a truly tremendous player and he's left a tremendous legacy here."

Burrow's long-time former Leeds team-mate Jamie Peacock wrote on Instagram: "Rob in a sport where courage, bravery and grit are characteristic of every player at the absolute top, you were the most courageous, the bravest and the grittiest of them all.

"Becoming an inspiration for 1000s and a North Star for the MND community, providing hope where before there was none. Never once complaining about your condition and situation. An inspiration to us all. RIP mate."

Ex-Scotland rugby union international Doddie Weir campaigned alongside Burrow to raise awareness and funds for MND until his death in November 2022 aged 52, and his charity - My Name'5 Doddie Foundation - described Burrow as "a true inspiration".

The Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, set up by former Bradford City footballer Stephen Darby and his close friend Chris Rimmer, as well as former England football captain Steph Houghton, who is married to Darby, also paid tribute on social media.

"Devastated doesn't even come close! Words can't describe our love for Rob,” Houghton wrote on X.

In March, Burrow attended the start of 'March of the Day', a 178-mile march by former footballers in aid of MND, led by ex-Ipswich striker Marcus Stewart and Darby, who both have the illness.

More on this story