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Rugby star and ALS campaigner Rob Burrow dies at age 41

Rob Burrow ahead of the '2023 Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon' which started and finished at Headingley Stadium, Leeds, May, 14, 2023. Rob Burrow, a former rugby star who was widely praised for his fundraising campaigns after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2019, has died. He was 41. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

LEEDS, England (AP) — Rob Burrow, a former rugby star who was widely praised for his fundraising and awareness campaigns after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2019, has died. He was 41.

Leeds Rhinos announced his death on Sunday. Burrow spent his entire career at the English rugby league club and helped them win eight Super League titles.

He retired in 2017 and two years later it was revealed Burrow had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neurone disease (MND). He went on to raise funds to help build a new care center for ALS patients alongside former teammate Kevin Sinfield.

“It is with deep sadness that the club can confirm that former player Rob Burrow CBE has passed away, aged 41," Leeds said in a statement. “Rob inspired the entire country with his brave battle against Motor Neurone Disease (MND) since his diagnosis in December 2019. He passed away peacefully at Pinderfield’s Hospital (in Wakefield) near his home surrounded by his loving family after becoming ill earlier this week."

In a personally signed message Sunday on X, Britain's Prince William said: “He taught us, ‘in a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream.’ Catherine and I send our love to Lindsey, Jackson, Maya and Macy.”

Born in Pontefract, Burrow progressed through Leeds’ academy to debut in 2001 and establish himself as a great of the sport. Silverware would follow with a first Super League title achieved in 2004 alongside national-team honors with England for the first time.

Great Britain would turn to Burrow for its test series with New Zealand in 2007 and he starred in the 3-0 victory where he was awarded player of the series following two tries and nine goals.

Burrow was a key figure for Leeds during a trophy-laden spell where they claimed World Club Challenge glory in 2005, 2008 and again in 2012 alongside two Challenge Cups.

The fearsome scrum-half announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2017 season in July of that year and enjoyed a fairy-tale finish after Leeds beat Castleford 24-6 in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Coaching was the next focus for Burrow after he started to work in the Leeds academy before the ALS diagnosis followed.

He went on to feature in an award-winning BBC documentary, “Rob Burrow — My Year with MND,” which provided a look behind the curtain of his illness and the impact on his wife Lindsey alongside his three children.

Sinfield picked up the fundraising baton from Burrow as his condition worsened, including running seven marathons in seven days.

“Along with his friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield, Burrow has inspired nearly 20 million pounds ($25.5 million) in fundraising across the UK and Ireland,” the Leeds statement said. “This has included raising over 6 million pounds to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND in Leeds.”

In May 2023, Sinfield carried Burrow over the finish line at the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon after pushing his great friend for the distance.

“Today was the day that I hoped would never come,” Sinfield wrote on social media.

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


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The Associated Press

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