Leeds Rhinos players discuss Rob Burrow inspiration and reflections on difficult period


2XDC35J Leeds, UK. 21st June, 2024. AMT Headingley Rugby Stadium, Leeds, West Yorkshire, 21st June 2024. Betfred Super League Leeds Rhinos v Leigh Leopards Leeds Rhinos line up for a minutes silence in remembrance to former Leeds Rhinos and Englands Rob Burrows who passed away at the age of 41 following a four-and-a-half-year battle with motor neurone disease (MND). Credit: Touchlinepics/Alamy Live News

Leeds Rhinos are hoping their season has gained fresh impetus following last weekend’s victory over Leigh Leopards: after channelling their emotions on a difficult evening the right way.

Many wondered whether or not the outpouring of grief and emotion which engulfed Headingley last Friday evening following the passing of Rob Burrow earlier in the month would impact the Rhinos’ players in a negative manner, and potentially spill into their performance against Leigh.

But in front of the biggest Headingley crowd for years, Leeds certainly delivered, winning 18-10 to potentially breathe new life into their Super League play-off push.

Few were as emotional post-match as half-back Brodie Croft, who broke down live on Sky Sports after the game. He later admitted that the Rhinos players were determined to put on a show for everyone watching and show that they were desperate to put on a fitting tribute to Burrow.

“This was a big one not just for the club but Rob, his family and the MND community, and I think the boys showed that, particularly some of our younger boys,” Croft said. “I followed Super League as a kid. Leeds were the big team and Rob was one of the key players.

“There is a lot of connection there, on top of being a dad myself and seeing his family there. I knew this was going to be a big occasion and we just wanted to do our absolute best.”

Prop Mikolaj Oledzki, someone who knew Burrow well, admitted to Love Rugby League that losing ‘wasn’t an option’ on a night which meant so much to so many people.

“We spoke about trying to control our emotions. We knew it was going to be a big occasion for the club and for everyone involved in rugby league,” he said.

“We knew that emotions were going to be high, but there wasn’t an option not to win. We wanted to make sure it was a special day for the club and for everyone involved.”

And for hooker Jarrod O’Connor, there was almost a sense of relief that they were able to deliver and secure victory on an emotionally-charged evening at Headingley.

He told Love Rugby League: “We’re relieved we managed to put that performance in for Rob and end the night on a high note,” said O’Connor. “We’re just over the moon and honoured we got to honour Rob in the right way.”

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“Everyone just had that extra bit of energy. I think that’s what we’ve been missing in the past couple of weeks, and we had that togetherness too and we definitely had that. A lot of us knew him, and that brought us together this week and it definitely showed on the pitch.”

Perhaps the most fitting moment of the entire evening was the try for scrum-half Matt Frawley, who will wear the number seven Burrow made famous during his playing days with Leeds.

He said: “I don’t think you can put it into words, to be honest. It’s just a special moment for everyone involved. It’s nice for myself to get a try but it’s more special for everyone who experienced it. I’ve said that I’m just the caretaker of that jersey, and it’s important that I gave a good representation of it.”

The Rhinos return to Super League action next weekend at home to London Broncos – as their hunt for a successor to Rohan Smith continues during the international break.

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