Rob Burrow: Reflections on a day when rugby league and Leeds came together to aid Rhinos legend
I’ve worked in sport for some time, but never have I witnessed anything like what took place at Headingley on Sunday afternoon.
I think we all knew something very special was going to take place this weekend, but I doubt anyone could have been prepared for what occurred.
The emotion, the mateship. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
It was Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s Testimonial. For those who don’t know JJB, he is a kind, positive and extremely generous person, so perhaps no surprise that he would share his special day with his former team-mate and close friend, Rob Burrow.
When Burrow was diagnosed with the rare and incurable motor neurone disease last month, it rocked the entire rugby league community.
And it was that community that turned out in full force on Sunday in a bid to raise money for one of the club’s greats.
More than 20,000 fans – a sold-out Headingley – stood as one to witness a bit of history.
The game between Leeds and Bradford was a pre-season friendly. Leeds won it 34-10.
It was entertaining, showcasing some big hits and decent tries, but the packed stadium wasn’t really there for the rugby – what they were waiting for unfolded in the closing stages.
With 11 minutes to go JJB would make his appearance. And three minutes later, to rapturous applause, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Danny McGuire, and Kylie Leuluai would join the retiring forward on the pitch.
But it was with five minutes remaining that the loudest cheer came.
The sold-out Headingley were all on their feet, and in one voice sang ‘There’s only one Rob Burrow’.
With the clock ticking down, the 37-year-old Burrow joined in on a moment that will never be forgotten.
A tearful Burrow ran on embracing each and every one of his former teammates he calls ‘the best of friends’.
It was a moment we never thought we would see again.
“What can you say to that? I only hope they know I’d do the same for them,” Burrow said.
After the match when talking to Jones Buchanan, he put it perfectly, saying: “In times of adversity, when things have been difficult, the boys have never forsaken or left anybody behind.
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