Former rugby league player Rob Burrow has described his shock at being made an MBE by the Princess Royal saying he was “absolutely honoured”.
Burrow, 39, had an illustrious playing career with Leeds Rhinos but his battles off the pitch, after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2019, has endeared him to sports fans and the general public alike.
He won eight Grand Finals and 20 international caps during his playing days and his efforts raising awareness about MND and his sporting achievements have been recognized with the MBE.
Burrow also paid tribute to his wife Lindsey, saying the day had given his partner the chance to “get dressed up” and indulge in some “escapism” away from her normal role looking after her husband.
The former sportsman, who now uses a wheelchair and speaks with the aid of a special machine, said: “I’m shocked to be accepting the MBE award, it’s not something that was on the list of things that I wanted to achieve but I I am absolutely honored to receive this award.
“Any excuse to see my wife get dressed up in the dresses she deserves to be, I hope she enjoys the occasion like me.
“I’ve always got a kick out of giving close ones that experience like no other. It gives my Lindsey escapism from a normal day-to-day management of looking after me.
“I’m so proud to receive this because of my rugby and the awareness for MND, this most importantly means that MND continues to be talked about and keeping it in the public (eye).
“I’m blown away by the response to me getting the disease and I hope they know – it’s all for you.”
After the ceremony his wife Lindsey, who was joined by her husband’s parents Geoff and Irene Burrow, said: “It’s just a really proud honorable moment, just to be here with Rob, in recognition of all that he’s done – just incredibly proud.
“Rob would say himself he accepts this award on behalf of the MND community, all the work that’s been going on in Rob’s name to help the families – that’s why we’re doing this. It’s lovely to get these awards but it’s about the other people who are suffering with this disease.”
Burrow’s former teammate Kevin Sinfield has raised millions in support of MND with a series of grievous challenges and was recently made an OBE for his work.
Chris James, from the MND Association, joined the former player and his family at Windsor Castle and said Rob’s efforts had encouraged others to fundraise for the charity.
He said: “I think what Rob has managed to do is incredibly brave, to live his journey with MND in the public eye as he had done. He’s done a huge amount to raise awareness of MND which is a disease that doesn’t get as much attention as other diseases.
“We know that directly as a result of Rob’s awareness raising that the MND Association has raised over £4 million pounds as a result of this.”
Burrow speaks using an electronic system where his eye movements over letters creates words and he recorded a message that was played to Anne when he received his MBE.
His wife said: “I didn’t actually go with Rob when he got his award, but he did write a little message to Her Royal Highness.
“It just said he was honored to be here and he loved Windsor Castle and it was lovely because she’s a patron of the MND (Association) so that’s really nice.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.