'By the time you watch this I will no longer be here': Rob Burrow's final message after death from motor neurone disease

3 June 2024, 21:17 | Updated: 4 June 2024, 12:54

Rob Burrow pictured in 2021
Rob Burrow pictured in 2021. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Rob Burrow's emotional final message to the world has been released, after the former rugby league star died of motor neurone disease at the weekend.

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The death of the former Leeds Rhinos player aged 41 was announced on Sunday after a five-year battle with MND.

He said in the message: "I want to live in a world free of MND. By the time you watch this I will no longer be here. I'm just a lad from Yorkshire who got to live out his dream of playing rugby league."

Recalling his youth playing rugby league, he said: "The guys always seemed to be a lot lot bigger than me. It inspired me to be more determined."

Thinking back to his diagnosis with the disease, he said: "My family told me I was slurring my speech a bit but I didn't take notice or believe them.

His wife Lindsey added: "I remember that moment being told it's not good news. Asking how long and them saying two years. Rob said 'thank god it's me and not the kids'. That's all he was bothered about."

Read More: Wembley to stage tributes to Rob Burrow after the rugby legend died following a long battle with MND

Read more: 'Simply the best': Rob Burrow's wife pays tribute after his death, as best friend Kevin Sinfield says he is 'heartbroken'

Rob Burrow has died aged 41
Rob Burrow has died aged 41. Picture: Alamy

Burrow added of his attitude to the condition: "I'm a fighter, to be honest. I'll certainly be swinging, I'm not going to give in, not until my last breath.

"I'm a prisoner in my own body, that's the way MND gets you.

"I think I would've broken down if it was me but Lindsey has this unwavering patience."

Burrow cried when asked about the effect of his condition on his family, adding: "I had no idea how my family would cope. They've become a beacon of hope for families in the same situation as ours.'

He added: "I have had such a great life. I have been gifted with the most incredible wife and three children. I hope they know how much I love them."

Lindsey said in a separate tribute: "Although we knew this day would arrive, I am somehow still feeling at a loss for words that our loving, kind, caring husband and father has departed.

"I was incredibly proud and fortunate to call Rob my husband. I am unbelievably proud of the campaigning he's done to raise awareness and the millions of pounds that have been raised in his name for MND charities.

Rob Burrow with his wife Lindsey Burrow on May 12
Rob Burrow with his wife Lindsey Burrow on May 12. Picture: Alamy

"I would like to thank the Rugby League community and everyone for their outpouring of love and support since Rob's diagnosis. I truly appreciate every message of support, and fundraising that has been done.

"My priority is to make Rob proud, and to bring our three children up as Rob would want and ensure their happiness and wellbeing.

"We will continue to keep Rob's legacy alive. We will continue to 'bang the drum' and do our best to try and help others. We take comfort from how much people's love and continued support meant to Rob through his most vulnerable times.

"He was simply the best."

Rob Burrow’s family look at the tributes at Headingley stadium

File photo dated 05/04/22 of former rugby league player Rob Burrow and his wife Lindsey arriving at Windsor Castle to receive his Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
File photo dated 05/04/22 of former rugby league player Rob Burrow and his wife Lindsey arriving at Windsor Castle to receive his Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). Picture: Alamy

Mr Sinfield said the loss was "pretty raw still" as he attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Rob Burrow Centre for MND at Seacroft Hospital in Leeds on Monday alongside members of his family.

Fighting back tears, he said: "I wish he could have seen the outpouring of love.

"I think we all lose special people but it's very, very rare you lose someone who's so special to so many different people.

Tributes laid for Rob Burrow
Tributes laid for Rob Burrow in Leeds. Picture: Getty

Sinfield said Burrow was "a superhuman superman in a game of big, strong athletes".

He told the BBC: "Then to come here today and see some of the fruits of Rob's work, he was so proud of this and we've heard they're going to try and build it in record time now, because that's what Rob did, he broke records.

"He wanted people to have a better outlook on life, he wanted people to have hope, he wanted to find a cure for this disease."

Before his death, Burrow had spearheaded a £6.8 million appeal for Leeds Hospitals Charity, where he received care, for a centre for those with MND living in and around the city.

Since Burrow's death was announced on Sunday evening, the appeal has received more than 1,000 donations.

Sinfield said: "I'm sure there'll be a big photo of Rob in this building and I'm sure there'll be some little kids who walk through with parents and grandparents and relatives who ask 'who's that' - and I'm also very, very sure that the answer that they'll get is 'he was the legend behind this building' and that's some legacy for him to leave."

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Friends and family of Rub Burrow during a ground breaking ceremony at the new £6 million Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease in Leeds
Friends and family of Rub Burrow during a ground breaking ceremony at the new £6 million Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease in Leeds. Picture: Alamy

"As you can see, it's pretty raw still.

"He'll leave a massive hole and I know there will be a lot of people out there who are heartbroken this morning at the news from yesterday.

"What's really important is Rob Burrow continues to live forever. I'm sure the MND community and everyone who's supported us previously will make sure that Rob's name is at the forefront of everything we do going forward."

Read more: Rob Burrow's tearful parents watch as work begins on hero's final wish - an MND centre to help others

Wife Lindsey said the father-of-three wished for ground to be broken today so work could start on the new £6.8million purpose-built care centre which he spearheaded fundraising efforts for.

This morning his friend Phil Daly said that despite the grief following his loss, "Rob wouldn't want us to waste a day" in the battle with MND.

The 41-year-old had helped raise money for Leeds Hospitals Charity, where he received care, in the years following his diagnosis.

Leeds Rhinos Head Coach Rohan Smith consoles Irene Burrow, Mother of Rob Burrow, near tributes left in memory of
Leeds Rhinos Head Coach Rohan Smith consoles Irene Burrow, Mother of Rob Burrow, near tributes left in memory of. Picture: Getty

In a personally signed message on X, the Prince of Wales wrote: "A legend of Rugby League, Rob Burrow had a huge heart. 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. W".

Burrow was made an MBE in the 2021 New Year Honours list for his services to rugby league and the MND community and was promoted to a CBE in the 2024 New Year Honours.

Read more: Firefighter dies and train derails amid heavy rain and flooding in Germany

Prince William awarded Kevin Sunfield and Rob Burrow a CBE for their efforts to raise awareness for MND
Prince William awarded Kevin Sunfield and Rob Burrow a CBE for their efforts to raise awareness for MND. Picture: Getty

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