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Jamie Jones-Buchanan ‘knew’ when he saw Kevin Sinfield’s face that his former teammate Rob Burrow had died – as he pays tribute to ‘brave’ MND campaigner

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Former Leeds Rhinos player Jamie Jones-Buchanan says he ‘knew’ when he saw Kevin Sinfield’s face that his former teammate Rob Burrow had died.

The Rugby League star passed away yesterday at the age of 41, having defied the odds by living for five years with motor neurone disease – when doctors told him that he would only live for two.

Jamie, who played alongside Rob at the Rhinos for 16 years, said he went to fellow ex-player Kevin’s house on Sunday and could see he was ‘struggling’ after hearing the news.

Kevin had worked with Rob since 2019 to increase awareness of MND and had raised more than £15million for charity in that time.

Attending Headingley Stadium on Monday morning to see the floral tributes, Jamie called Rob a ‘brave’ campaigner who ‘smashed’ expectations after being diagnosed illness.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan attended Headingley Stadium on Monday to pay his respects to his former teammate Rob Burrow, who died at the age of 41

Jamie Jones-Buchanan attended Headingley Stadium on Monday to pay his respects to his former teammate Rob Burrow, who died at the age of 41 

Rob had defied then odds by living for five years with motor neurone disease - when doctors told him that he would only live for two

Rob had defied then odds by living for five years with motor neurone disease – when doctors told him that he would only live for two

Kevin Sinfield had worked with Rob since 2019 to raise awareness of MND and had raised more than £15million for charity in that time

Kevin Sinfield had worked with Rob since 2019 to raise awareness of MND and had raised more than £15million for charity in that time

He said: ‘Every moment was spent doing the right thing, shining a light on the people that needed it the most, and he transcended not just the sport but the nation, and he’s raised millions, he created so much awareness for motor neurone disease.

‘He never said “Why me?”, he never complained, he never moaned, very stoic. He fought every minute, he was so brave.’

Whilst playing with Rob and Kevin at the Rhinos – Jamie won eight Super League Grand Finals, three World Club Challenges, three League Leaders’ Shields and two Challenge Cup Finals.

When asked how he was told about the devastating news, Jamie said: ‘I’d gone to pick something up, he’d [Kevin] found out about 45 minutes before. When I saw his face, I could tell. He was struggling, really struggling… He’s an emotional guy is Kev.

‘The overwhelming thought for me was how important it was for me to spend those moments when I got back home with my wife and kids so I just turned my phone off.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan pays tribute to former Leeds Rhino teammate Rob Burrow, who had Motor Neurone Disease, at Headingley Stadium in Leeds today. Jamie saw Kevin Sinfield shortly after Rob's death and ¿knew from his face¿ that their former team-mate had passed

Jamie Jones-Buchanan pays tribute to former Leeds Rhino teammate Rob Burrow, who had Motor Neurone Disease, at Headingley Stadium in Leeds today. Jamie saw Kevin Sinfield shortly after Rob’s death and “knew from his face” that their former team-mate had passed

Kevin (centre, right), Rob (right of Kevin) and Jamie (far right) celebrate a Super League Grand Final win in 2012

Kevin (centre, right), Rob (right of Kevin) and Jamie (far right) celebrate a Super League Grand Final win in 2012

Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain Rugby League player Rob Burrow has died at 41 after living with motor neurone disease (MND) for nearly five years, after he was diagnosed in late 2019

Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain Rugby League player Rob Burrow has died at 41 after living with motor neurone disease (MND) for nearly five years, after he was diagnosed in late 2019

‘If Rob had another 30 seconds left, I doubt he’d pick up his phone. He’d spend it with Maya, Macy, Jackson and Lindsay [his three children], and I thought that’s what I need to do.’

Rob’s death over the weekend sparked an outpouring of sadness with best friend Kevin and the likes of the Prince and Princess of Wales joining in the wave of tributes to his larger than life character. 

He said: ‘Today was the day that I hoped would never come. The world has lost a great man and a wonderful friend to so 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.

‘My love and thoughts go out to your beautiful family, Lindsey, Macy, Maya, and Jackson, to your lovely parents Geoff and Irene, sisters Joanne and Claire and your wider family and friends.

‘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 4 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. All my love, Kev.’ 

Rob with his wife Lindsey, children Macy, Maya and Jackson and best friend Kevin Sinfield last year at the The Rob Burrow Marathon in Leeds last month

Rob with his wife Lindsey, children Macy, Maya and Jackson and best friend Kevin Sinfield last year at the The Rob Burrow Marathon in Leeds last month

Former rugby league player Rob Burrow and his wife Lindsey arrive at Windsor Castle to receive his Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on April 5, 2022

Former rugby league player Rob Burrow and his wife Lindsey arrive at Windsor Castle to receive his Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on April 5, 2022

Burrow and Sinfield cross the finish line of the 2023 Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon which started and finished at Headingley Stadium, Leeds

Burrow and Sinfield cross the finish line of the 2023 Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon which started and finished at Headingley Stadium, Leeds

His wife Lindsey Burrow and their three children Macy, Maya and Jackson released a statement last night after his death, in which they said that Rob’s battle with motor neurone disease shows that ‘we must dare to dream’. 

The statement read; ‘Rob never accepted that he couldn’t do something. He just found his way of doing it better than anyone else. He will continue to inspire us all every day. In a world full of adversity. We must dare to dream.’ 

The official X account of Prince William and Princess Kate earlier posted a touching message and expressed their condolences to the brave legend’s family.

The post read: ‘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.’ It was signed off with a W for William.

The MND Association, a charity for which Rob and Kevin raised millions of pounds following his diagnosis, also paid tribute.

In a statement it said: ‘In doing so much, he inspired support from so many. On the weekend of the Challenge Cup Final in October 2020, fans and supporters donated an incredible £70,000 to the MND Association.

‘Just two months later, Rob’s former captain Kevin Sinfield CBE took on the first of four incredible challenges raising more than £7 million for MND charities, including the MND Association.

‘Rob and Kev’s friendship made headline news around the world. Thousands of well-wishers, not just in rugby’s heartland, but across the country donated, took on fundraising challenges and pledged support in tribute to Rob’s bravery.

‘Rob’s contribution to rugby league and awareness of MND were recognised in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List when he was made an CBE and that same year Rob accepted the role of patron of the MND Association. Rob was subsequently awarded a CBE in the 2024 New Year’s Honours list.

Flowers, messages and other tributes left at Headingley Stadium for Burrow on Sunday

Flowers, messages and other tributes left at Headingley Stadium for Burrow on Sunday

Prince William, Prince of Wales met Rob Burrow in January to congratulate him for raising awareness of Motor Neurone Disease

Prince William, Prince of Wales met Rob Burrow in January to congratulate him for raising awareness of Motor Neurone Disease

The official X account of Prince William and Princess Kate posted a touching message and expressed their condolences to the brave legend's family

The official X account of Prince William and Princess Kate posted a touching message and expressed their condolences to the brave legend’s family

‘It is testament to the strength of feeling people have for Rob that the support in his name has never wavered.

‘The MND Association is incredibly grateful to Rob and his family for helping to raise awareness of MND, and funds for the Association, by sharing the details of their journey and by inspiring so many people both within the MND community and the wider public.’

Incredibly, and poignantly, work to build a new £6 million Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease in Leeds begins today – less than 24 hours after his death. 

The build is expected to take about a year and the charity remains focused on raising the last £1million of their target.

Paul Watkins, director of fundraising at Leeds Hospitals Charity, said: ‘The family still want it to go ahead. That just shows how magnanimous and gracious they are.

‘All along they have thought about others.’

He added: ‘We’ve raised £5.85 million of the £6.8 million centre and we will continue until we get there.

‘We’re just devastated at the news today. Rob’s work transcended the Rugby League community. At a time when he was most vulnerable he put himself out there.

‘Few people in the UK now don’t know what MND is, and a lot of that is because of Rob.

‘I was lucky enough to be in the room with him many times and fortunate enough to catch that glint in his eye or his smile. His smile would light up any room.

‘He was a joy to be around.’



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