Published By: Macmillan
Released On: 19/08/2021
Rob Burrow is one of the greatest rugby league players of all time. And the most inspirational. As a boy, Rob was told he was too small to play the sport. Even when he made his debut for Leeds Rhinos, people wrote him off as a novelty. But Rob never stopped proving people wrong. During his time at Leeds, for whom he played almost 500 games, he won eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, and three World Club Challenges, He also played for his country in two World Cups.
In December 2019, Rob was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, a rare degenerative condition, and given a couple of years to live. He was only 37, not long retired and had three young children. When he went public with the devastating news, the outpouring of affection and support was extraordinary. When it became clear that Rob was going to fight it all the way, sympathy turned to awe.
This is the story of a tiny kid who adored rugby league but never should have made it – and ended up in the Leeds hall of fame. It’s the story of a man who resolved to turn a terrible predicament into something positive – when he could have thrown the towel in. It’s about the power of love, between Rob and his childhood sweetheart Lindsey; and of friendship, between Rob and his faithful team mates.
It feels odd to review a book that is as important as this one because it is so much more than “just” an autobiography or a memoir.
I used to watch every rugby Union game – and quite a lot of rugby league games, if not as avidly – with my dad, and whilst it’s just me now, I still ensure I’m sat screaming at the tally when it is on, and every rugby fan (Union or league) knows who Rob Burrow is and his story. Most people don’t like to be called an inspiration just for having a terminal illness, including Rob, so I won’t say he is (although he is).
I have a moderate understanding of MND, and a thorough personal experience of neurology, but even with that, hearing a first person experience of it in all its raw brutality is sad, hard to read, and (sorry) inspiring.
If I had to pick hairs, I’d say there’s possibility a bit too much of recounting rugby matches and scores for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, as I said, I love rugby and I understand it is his sport, his livelihood and his love, but once you’ve read one score line, you’ve pretty much read them all. But that didn’t put me off reading. If anything, it made the MND sections even tougher as you could really see how much was being taken away from him.
I love the additional sections written by his family, friends, and teammates. Any terminal illness is obviously extremely hard for the person who has it, but it is also very difficult for those around them, so I think it was a nice touch to hear from those affected by it, as it shows Rob isn’t alone.
I think his book will do a lot of good in help those with MND, and those caring for people with MND, so I think he’s been more of an inspiration than he thinks.