You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

Rabbitohs great Sam Burgess has paid tribute to Rob Burrow as the rugby league world mourns the inspirational Englishman whose courageous battle with Motor Neurone Disease transcended the sport.

The Prince of Wales, Prince William, and inspirational former team-mate and best friend, Kevin Sinfield, also led tributes for Burrow, who passed away in Leeds on Sunday, aged 41.

Burgess, who is preparing Warrington to face Wigan in this weekend's Challenge Cup semi-final, played six Tests alongside Burrow for England.

Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield defined mateship through their efforts to raise funds for MND.
Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield defined mateship through their efforts to raise funds for MND. ©Leeds Rhinos

“He had the heart of a lion while playing, and the heart of a thousand lions when facing motor neurone disease," Burgess said. “He was courageous on the field and a great teammate, so it’s tragic news."

Burgess lost his father Mark to MND before he moved to the NRL to join the Rabbitohs in 2010.

“It’s tragic but the legacy he’s left globally – he’s impacted so many lives not just here in the UK, but in Australia and all over the world," Burgess told the Warrington Guardian.

“There’s so many great things we can remember Rob for. It’s just sad that it’s at the cost of his life.

“He attacked the adversity in his life in the same way he attacked the sport. He defied the laws of physics when he played, and he played at such a high level for so long.

“We should all take a moment to reflect on that and celebrate what a special guy he was.

“We lost our father in 2007 and it’s a tragic disease, so I can appreciate the impact Rob’s had on the MND community more than most. His story has united all sports."

Sam Burgess played alongside Rob Burrow in six Tests for England.
Sam Burgess played alongside Rob Burrow in six Tests for England.

The diminutive halfback enjoyed a stellar Super League career with the Rhinos, claiming eight league titles, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenge trophies across 18 seasons and 492 games for the club.

He also made five international appearances for Great Britain and 15 for England, including one Test against the Kangaroos during the 2008 World Cup in Australia.

However, Burrow's efforts - along with Sinfield - to raise awareness and nearly £20 million in fundraising for patients of MND after being his diagnosis in 2019 was arguably his greatest legacy.

Seven in Seven: Sinfield's inspiring effort for Burrow

Work to build the £6m Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease in Leeds was due to begin the day after his death, while the Rhinos plan to recognise the achievements of both Burrow and Sinfield with a statue at Headingley.

Prince William described Burrow as a "legend of rugby league" as tributes from across the world flowed for the rugby league icon.

Rob Burrow in action for England in the 2008 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
Rob Burrow in action for England in the 2008 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. ©NRL Photos

"A legend of rugby league, Rob Burrow had a huge heart," said William on social media. "He taught us, ‘in a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream'."

Burrow was made an MBE in 2021 and a CBE in 2024 for his services to the sport and motor neurone disease charities.

Sinfield was also awarded a CBE in 2023 for his services to the MND community after running seven marathons in seven days and numerous other fundraising efforts.

He carried Burrow across the finish line of the 2023 Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon.

"Today was the day that I hoped would never come," Sinfield said in a statement.

"The world has lost a great man and a wonderful friend to so many. 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. 

"You will continue to inspire me every single day. I have lost a dear friend and I will never forget the special times we shared both on and off the pitch.

"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.

"The last four-and-a-half years you showed the world what living and loving looked like and this was always done with the biggest smile on your face. I will miss you my little mate."

The RFL confirmed that the player of the match in the men’s Super League Grand final will receive the Rob Burrow Award – to be presented for the first time at Old Trafford this October.

IRL Chair Troy Grant was among those to pay tribute to Burrow.

“In a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream. Rob showed us how we should live - to the fullest, with generosity to our fellow man at the heart of all we do, and that family and mateship is what matters most," Grant said.

“In addition to all he did and everything he was, Rob showed us the power of dignity. I am privileged to have met him, his family and mate Kevin Sinfield.”  

Burrow is survived by wife Lindsey and children Macy, Maya and Jackson.


Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

Principal Partner

Major Partners

Official Sponsors

View All Partners