Rohan Smith’s Rob Burrow promise as Leeds Rhinos prepare for emotional return

Aaron Bower
Rohan Smith Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith has promised his squad are determined to put on a show to pay tribute to Rob Burrow as they prepare to take to the field for the first time since his tragic passing.

The Rhinos head to Hull FC on Saturday afternoon, the first time their men’s team have played since Burrow tragically passed away earlier this month at the age of just 41.

There has been an enormous, justified, outpouring of grief since Burrow’s passing, and the Rhinos are planning an extensive set of tributes when they return to Headingley next Friday to take on Leigh Leopards.

But Smith insists that the playing group’s determination to put on their own personal tribute for Burrow through their performances is something they are highly motivated about.

“We want to put a show on for Rob, for our fans and ourselves,” Smith said.

“We want to put a strong showing on and build from that. For some players, when it gets hard, they can find a little bit more for Rob if that’s the way they’re inspired. Some players may want to be in their regular emotional state. It’s very much an individual state.”

A number of Leeds’ players and coaches have personal connections with Burrow. Some were his team-mate, while some were coached by him during their formative years when Burrow was with Leeds’ academy setup.

And Smith admitted that it has been a difficult period for everyone associated with the Rhinos – but more so those who had a relationship with Burrow.

“Those guys particularly have been hurting, they’ve been sad,” Smith said.

“For us that didn’t particularly work with Rob, there’s a bunch of us in the squad, we’ve all been inspired in our time at the Rhinos by what he did on the field and off it.

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“He defied all the odds and left a legacy, which everyone strives to do. Post-career, the battle he’s been through for the good of other people, that’s inspired all of us.

“Some players and staff have had to deal with it more than others. The administration staff, a lot of them have spent a lot of time in and around the stadium while people have been coming to the ground. It’s been a difficult time for the staff as a whole, not just the Kirkstall brigade.”

Smith admitted those who knew Burrow personally throughout their own careers have been ’emotional’, and believes it will provide a level of motivation for Leeds to draw upon as they come to terms with the tragic news.

“Each individual deals with these things differently,” Smith said.

“I’m sure in some aspects it’ll give some players increased motivation and inspiration to perform well and to honour Rob. But it’s always a balancing act, building up too much emotion from a performance point of view doesn’t serve people well.

“In the build-up there’ll be some emotion attached, especially those guys who have been close to Rob and played with him or been coached by him. I think those guys have been emotional.”

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