Everything that is great about our fantastic sport was on show at Emerald Headingley on Sunday aftenoon as the rugby league community came together in support of Rob Burrow and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
The ‘Full House’ notices were on display, unprecedented for a pre-season friendly, for the fundraiser for the former Rhinos star who was recently diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. SKY Sports gave their time for free to bring the event into the homes of a wider audience.
Former stars if both clubs also gave of their time and pulled on their boots for one final time to join Rob on the field for the closing minutes in an electric and emotional atmosphere in an act of brotherhood.
As soon as the announcement was made of Rob Burrows diagnosis, Jamie Jones-Buchanan had no hesitation in offering his long arranged testimonial event to his former team mate and giving him the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for his incurable condition. The Rugby league support network sprang into action with John Kear’s Bradford Bulls side agreeing to forego their purse and embrace the ‘event’.
Former players were quick to offer their services with recent South Stand heroes Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Danny McGuire, Brett Delaney, Kylie Leuluai, Ryan Bailey and Keith Senior amongst those who offered to take to the field. Robbie Hunter-Paul took the initiative from the Bulls side and secured the support of the likes of Stuart Fielden, Nathan McAvoy, and Rob Parker, all wanting to be part of this great occasion.
The crowd, bolstered by supporters from across the entire community, waited patiently for seventy minutes as Richard Agar and John Kear gave their sides a proper pre-season test.
The Rhinos bossed the game from the outset as the two sides got stuck into the action in freezing conditions, refereed by Ben Thaler, blowing off his own festive cobwebs. Rhyse Martin scored the opening ten points for the Rhinos before the Bulls finally opened their account through Ross Oakes. Liam Sutcliffe and Brad Dwyer both made it over the whitewash before the interval with the home side being comfortably ahead at 22-4.
Thomas Doyle saw the Bulls into double figures at the start of the second half but as tempers frayed the Rhinos scored through Rob Lui and Richie Myler to seal a 34-10 Leeds win.
To rapturous applause, and the crowd chanting their names, the stars of the Rhinos glory days took to the field and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the focus of the afternoon, Rob Burrow, took the applause of the entire stadium.
It was a fabulous event to recognise the current and future struggles of one of the games favourite sons, loved by all, worshipped by many, and feared by forwards throughout the last two decades.
You can donate to Rob’s fundraising; https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=robburrow