By Graham Clark
Former Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain rugby league star Rob Burrow made a special visit to Haydock Park at the end of last month to watch syndicate horse Family Ties in her latest attempt to try and raise funds for two Motor Neurone Disease (MND) charities.
The 40-year-old father of three, who was diagnosed with MND in December 2019, made the trip from his home in Pontefract to the Merseyside track with his family to watch the Paul Midgley-trained filly contest the Jodie Murph Hens At The Turf Fillies’ Handicap.
Running under the banner of the Rob Burrow Racing Club, which raises funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and The Rob Burrow 7 Discretionary Trust, the Expert Eye filly finished seventh in the five-furlong contest under jockey Graham Lee.
Although Family Ties, who is one of two horses in training that runs for the club alongside the Jedd O’Keeffe-trained hurdler Beep Beep Burrow, failed to fire on this occasion, it did not dampen the spirits of Burrow according to his wife Lindsey.
She said: “Rob loves going racing as his granddad was a big racing fan so he has grown up with horses.
“Rob thoroughly enjoyed it and the team at Haydock Park really looked after us. It was a shame about the horse as she didn’t win, but you win some and you lose some.
“They had high expectations for the horse to run well but for us it was just about being there and making memories as a family.
“Family Ties has shown some promise, but we’ve not had too much luck yet, however hopefully we will in the future.”
Since being diagnosed with MND more than three years ago Burrow, who won eight Super League titles along with making more than 400 appearances for the Rhinos, has helped raise the level of awareness of the condition something his family are proud of.
Lindsey added: “When Rob was diagnosed with MND he was almost angered that there was no cure and not as much research going into it as there should be so he feels it’s his job to raise that awareness. He is doing this simply to help other families out.
“It is overwhelming the amount of support and outpouring of love Rob gets wherever he goes. People have been inspired by him for what he has done for the MNDA.
“The support he has received has been heart-warming, especially when times are tough. It is nice to have that level of public support but sometimes I think it is quite surreal.
“We are just a working-class family from a rugby background that just want to raise awareness of this condition.
“When Rob was at his most vulnerable we opened the doors to the public and it takes a special person to do that, but Rob wants to raise awareness of this condition.
“There has been so much good come out of it with the awareness that has been raised and that is now going into research and treatment, and one day hopefully a cure. It just gives people hope.
“When Rob was handed the news we thought we might have one or two years with him but he has such a fighting spirit and that is why he is still here today.
“He stays so positive with what he is facing and all of us are so proud of him.”
While Burrow hung up his boots from rugby league at the end of the 2017 campaign, two years before his MND diagnosis, Lindsey admits that the bond between him and his old teammates remains as strong as it did during their days on the pitch together.
Lindsey added: “Rob still watches all the games, and he is still a big supporter of the sport. His old teamates are brilliant and so many have come around to see him.
“The likes of Kevin Sinfield, Barrie McDermott, Jamie Peacock, Danny McGuire, Keith Senior and Matt Diskin have all been around as has his old coach Tony Smith.
“It is nice for Rob that they keep in contact with him, and he really looks forward to seeing them.
“He loves having the banter with them, and they understand it just takes him a bit longer than it used to. They have a real special bond.
“As Kev (Sinfield) has said before he would have done this for any of those guys in that team and Rob would have done it for them if it was the other way around such is the camaraderie they have.
“Rob feels lucky to have such friendship and the bond with those lads. Rob is still the same person and though he can’t move his mind is still very active.
“It shows they are genuine friends as they make the time out of their busy lives to make the effort to see him.”
One man who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in helping highlight Burrow’s story is his close pal Kevin Sinfield, who in recent years has helped raised millions of pounds for various MND charities through a host of running challenges.
And Lindsey has revealed the pair hope to raise more cash to help fund further research into the condition through the sale of two books called With You Every Step: A Celebration Of Friendship and Try, with the first named going on sale on November 9.
She added: “Rob and Kevin are doing two books together which will raise funds for the MNDA and the Leeds Hospitals Charity for the Rob Burrow Centre for MND Appeal.
“The first book, which is released later this year, will have heartfelt words from both Rob and Kev, which will be brought to life in black line art from leading illustrators.
“The second book called Try is about getting the message over about male friendships, which is aimed at younger readers. Hopefully they will both sell well.”
For further information about the Rob Burrow Racing Club visit thegoodracing.co.
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