Former rugby league player Rob Burrow has paid tribute to Doddie Weir for helping him deal with his own diagnosis of motor neurone disease.
The ex-Scotland rugby union international died aged just 52 on Saturday after a six-year battle with the disease, which Burrow discovered he had in 2019. Both have embarked on incredible fundraising feats, and raised awareness about the illness - which has also affected former Leicester Tigers ace Ed Slater.
“His positive outlook and attitude was central to how I decided I was going to take on my own challenge with MND,” Burrow told the Daily Mail. “His attitude was exactly what I needed. When I was diagnosed, all anyone told me about was how bad it would be, but Doddie was totally different.
Weir, who won 61 caps, raised more than £8million for MND research via his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and Burrow now wants the Government to honour its pledge to provide more funding.
“I suppose being sportspeople, we see challenges and think about how we can beat them and turn things in our favour,” Burrow said. He showed us all the way and did it every time with a laugh and a joke. He gave the MND community a voice and he became a beacon of light that we could all follow.”
MND is a rare degenerative condition that affects the brain and nerves, causing weakness in the body. The life expectancy for roughly half those of those with MND is three years from the onset of symptoms, although some people live with the condition for decades. There is no cure for MND but there are a variety of treatments available which help to manage the symptoms. The condition eventually leads to death as the condition causes weakness of the muscles required to keep a person alive.
Burrow added: “He has inspired millions of pounds of fundraising that has turned the course of research. But we now need the Government to keep their promise to Doddie and the 5,000 people living with MND in the UK. The Government pledged £50million to research over a year ago, yet that money frustratingly has not yet been handed to researchers. The Prime Minister can change that by keeping his Government’s promise.”
One of Weir’s fundraising efforts was a gala dinner held in London hosted by former Scotland team-mate Kenny Logan and his TV presenter wife Gabby. He insisted the event be called a ‘Night of Laughter’. In an interview with the Sunday Times just a few months after he broke the news of his fate to the world, he shrugged off the notion that his final days might be filled with self pity.
Who is Rob Burrow?
Rob Burrow, 40, is a former professional rugby league player who spent his entire career at Leeds Rhinos, making more than 400 appearances. Burrow also represented England on 15 occasions between 2003 and 2013. Weighing less than 11 stone, and standing at 5ft 5, he was known as ‘the smallest player in the Super League’ but went on to have a successful career with the Rhinos and entered the club’s Hall of Fame in 2020.
In December 2019, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He was awarded an MBE at the 2021 New Years Honours for services to Rugby League and the Motor Neurone Disease community. Rob Burrow: Living with MND is an intimate special documentary that explores the impact of MND on himself, and those closest to him.