Robert the Lion Heart: Rob Burrow and Too Many Reasons to Live

Rob Burrow approaches MND like he did Rugby League: with bravery and without fear

It was October 2011, and as they do at the end of every season, thousands of rugby league fans descended on Old Trafford to see which way the League title would be decided. 

Since the creation of a play-off and Grand Final system in 1998, the contest had earned a reputation for high intensity, low scoring affairs. In 2011, the traditional pre-match downpour of rain pointed towards another night of slippery feet and difficult handling conditions. Nothing that happened in the first half an hour — as Leeds and St Helens locked themselves into a defensive war of attrition — suggested anything different. 

Watching the opening exchanges unfold impatiently, from the substitutes bench, was the Leeds Rhinos half-back Rob Burrow. In previous years, when Leeds and St Helens faced each other in the “last dance”, Burrow had been integral to their success. He picked up the Harry Sunderland Trophy as Man of the Match in 2007, and added to it with Championship wins in 2008 and 2009. But just two years later, there was no longer a place for him in the starting line up. Instead he seemed destined to spend the peak of his playing years as an impact substitute.

As Burrow recounts in his newly published autobiography Too Many Reasons To Live  (Pan Macmillan £20.00), the coach, Brian McDermott, was not the first person to doubt his ability. In an age where people of all backgrounds are encouraged to participate in competitive sport, one thing is still guaranteed to hold a young person back: their size.

Read the rest of this article for free at The Critic website

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