Rob Burrow cut an emotional figure after returning to the field of play one last time in Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s testimonial match against Bradford, with a sold out Emerald Headingley Stadium there to show their support for the former scrum half.
Since revealing his diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease just over three weeks ago, the Rhinos legend has seen the rugby league community unite behind him, culminating in Burrow taking to the field in the last five minutes of the match against the Bulls alongside a host of other club legends.
After receiving a standing ovation from the fans and players before, during and after the game, Burrow admitted he has been blown away by the support and couldn’t thank the Leeds club and rugby league family enough.
“It’s hard to put into words but I’m completely overwhelmed and humbled. It’s amazing that the club put on such a huge event and it really meant a lot to me,” he said.
“I had five minutes at the end and didn’t really do a lot but just to be out there with the boys again meant so much.”
Burrow was joined by former teammates including Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Kylie Leuluai in a celebration of both his and Jones-Buchanan’s careers, with the half back amazed at some of the efforts on show in the middle.
“I asked Kylie (Leuluai) if he was going to shot someone and he said ‘no’, but he’s not hit anyone for years to it’s clearly been building up and the poor lad from Bradford felt it,” he laughed.
The 37 year old, who played nearly 500 matches for the Rhinos, received a chant of support from Bradford fans, who travelled in huge numbers for the game, which he believes typifies the togetherness of the sport.
“You can’t really explain how it feels. Our sport isn’t the biggest but it’s definitely the closest knit in the world. There’s the same spirit right throughout all the teams and we all look after our own,” he explained.
“Fans from all clubs have been saying such nice stuff and tonight was a prime example of what our game is all about.”
It’s been a whirlwind three weeks for the former England international and he admitted that despite enjoying every second of the event and being hugely grateful of the support along the way, he is looking forward to stepping out of the spotlight.
“I’m not one for the limelight at all so today was a big, big day; bigger than you’d imagine,” he added.
“When the dust settles I’ll return to normal life and I can’t wait. Just stuff like being a dad, changing nappies and a bit of coaching, that’s my life, but how can you not enjoy an event like tonight?
“I’m going to keep my hand in at the club and having that helps me feel normal. If you spend too much time at home thinking about things that when it starts to affect you so being involved at Leeds still is exactly how I like it.”