Remembering Rob Burrow's final message as thousands line streets for funeral

-Credit: (Image: PA Wire)
-Credit: (Image: PA Wire)

Thousands of people lined the streets to honor rugby league legend and motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner Rob Burrow ahead of his funeral.

The former Leeds Rhino star passed away on June 2 at age 41, after years of raising awareness and millions of dollars for research into the degenerative condition he battled. Burrow's journey to Pontefract Crematorium for a private funeral was publicised by his former team, drawing supporters who came to pay their respects to the inspirational figure.

The cortege slowed at Featherstone Lions ARLFC’s ground on Wakefield Road and passed through Featherstone, near where Burrow played junior rugby. The procession took place on July 7, a date annually celebrated as Rob Burrow Day by the Leeds Rhinos in honor of the iconic number 7 shirt he wore during his illustrious rugby league career, reports the Mirror.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23: Rob Burrow smiles as Ex-Leeds Rhinos rugby league player Kevin Sinfield completes his Extra Mile Challenge at Emerald Headingley Stadium on November 23, 2021 in Leeds, England. Sinfield aims to run 101 miles in 24 hours in aid of motor neurone disease research. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Rob Burrow sadly passed away on Sunday, June 2, 2024 -Credit:George Wood/Getty Images

Burrow's 17-year career included eight Super League Grand Final wins, three World Club Challenges, and two Challenge Cups. In 2019, two years after retiring, Burrow was diagnosed with MND.

Despite his diagnosis, Burrow continued to communicate using an eye-gaze machine, which allowed him to speak by focusing on words that were then vocally reproduced by a computer program. In the weeks leading up to his death, Rob Burrow delivered a touching final message.

Crowds gather for the funeral of much loved rugby hero Rob Burrow -Credit:William Lailey / SWNS
Crowds gather for the funeral of much loved rugby hero Rob Burrow -Credit:William Lailey / SWNS

He advised people to "be brave" and "live in the moment", expressing his belief in daring to dream. This heartfelt address was shared during a BBC tribute to the late Leeds Rhinos legend and MND campaigner who passed away back in June earlier this year.

He said: "I hope one day we find a cure and live in a world free of MND. By the time that you watch this, I will no longer be here. I am just a lad from Yorkshire who got to live out his dream of playing Rugby League."

"As a father of three young children, I would never want any family to have to experience what mine has since my diagnosis. I hope I have made a lasting impact on the disease. I hope my story encourages people to live in the moment and find inspiration.

"My final message to you is whatever your personal battle, be brave and face it. Every single day is precious. Don't waste a moment. In a world full of adversity we must still dare to dream. Rob Burrow, over and out."

Alongside friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield, Burrow began a journey that saw more than £15million raised for MND charities. The pair were awarded CBEs for services to rugby league and the MND community in the New Year Honours in 2024. Prince William awarded the duo with the honour at Headingley Stadium.

Sinfield will be in attendance at Burrow's funeral as he takes compassionate leave from England's tour of New Zealand.

Sinfield has been heartened by the reaction following Burrow’s passing, despite his absence. “There are a lot of things I’ve missed over the last few weeks,” he said.

Jayne Sinfield and Kevin Sinfield arrive at Pontefract Crematorium -Credit:PA
Jayne Sinfield and Kevin Sinfield arrive at Pontefract Crematorium -Credit:PA

“The response and respect for Rob from everyone across the UK has been wonderful and great to see. There was also a big tribute last weekend in the MND round of Super League. There’s been some bits I’d like to have been there to witness.

“It’s been really good to get away and get some time to reflect. Rob would want me to be here and to be part of this. He would want me to try and be supporting the guys. The lads have been fantastic throughout my time working with them – they’ve shown compassion and care that won’t go unnoticed."

Speaking from home, Burrow's wife Lindsey told BBC Breakfast host Sally Nugent in her first interview since his death: “He was an inspiration to so many. He was the face of the MND community. Despite the grief and the sadness, we have so much to be thankful for, for having him in our lives and making the world a better place to be.

A mourner in a Rob Burrow strip at Pontefract Crematorium, West Yorkshire before the funeral for former Leeds Rhinos player Rob Burrow. -Credit:PA
A mourner in a Rob Burrow strip at Pontefract Crematorium, West Yorkshire before the funeral for former Leeds Rhinos player Rob Burrow. -Credit:PA

“I’m proud to have been his wife for 17-and-a-half years and to have three beautiful children with Rob. I’ll do everything I can to make sure they’re brought up as Rob would want them to be – to be kind and caring and to appreciate the things in life. Rob was very much like that. [He was] very down to earth, never had an ego – such a lovely kind man.”

Lindsey, 41, also detailed that Burrow left final messages for their children, Macy, 11, Maya, eight, and five-year-old Jackson. They remained on the eye-gaze machine that Rob used after the disease took away his ability to speak.

She said: “I know he has left messages on there for the children and, at the minute, it’s too raw to go and look through the machine. There are birthday messages on there and messages for the children in the future. There will come a day where I will have to do that and Rob will be with me and he’ll give me the strength to do that.”

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