Super League Grand Final award renamed in honour of Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow

Aaron Bower
Kevin Naiqama of St Helens being presented the Harry Sunderland Trophy by Rob Burrow

The outstanding player in this year’s men’s Super League Grand Final will become the first recipient of a newly-named award to celebrate the incredible career and subsequent fundraising achievements of Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow.

Previously, the individual voted player of the match in the Old Trafford finale has won the Harry Sunderland Trophy, with that award dating all the way back to 1965 and the old Premiership and Championship finals. However, this year’s winner will be the first to claim the newly-renamed Rob Burrow Award.

Burrow was the first player to win player of the match in two separate Grand Finals, having won the award in the 2007 and 2011 matches at Old Trafford. He is one of only three players to achieve that feat: the other two being his Leeds Rhinos team-mates, Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire. Burrow was also the first player to win the award via a landslide vote of the sport’s journalists, claiming all 37 votes in 2011.

Burrow presented the award at the 2021 Grand Final to the eventual winner, St Helens‘ Kevin Naiqama. But he has now been given the honour of having the award named after him. Burrow, who was given a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List for his services to raising funds and awareness for those living with Motor Neurone Disease, has been invited to present the first Rob Burrow Award at Old Trafford on October 14 this year, alongside Sinfield, with whom he has raised millions.

“It is an honour to introduce the Rob Burrow Award for the outstanding performer in the Super League Grand Final,” the managing director of RL Commercial, Rhodri Jones, said.

“Rob has transcended rugby league, both with the skill, speed and courage he showed on the field – most memorably with the Old Trafford performances with which he became the first player to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy in two Grand Finals – and more recently with his inspirational response having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

“Today’s announcement is a show of our gratitude to Rob for being the player he was, and a sign of Rugby League’s support to him and his family in the battle against MND.”

“The name of Rob Burrow is a fitting one to recognise”

Trevor Hunt, the Chair of the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association, who is currently serving at the Vice President of the Rugby Football League, said: “After long and serious consideration, we believe the time is now right to introduce a new award for the Player of the Match in the Super League Grand Final – and I am certain that rugby league players and supporters will agree that the name of Rob Burrow is a fitting one to recognise.

“He has been one of the most popular and successful players in the three decades since the Super League was formed in 1996, and made his own history at Old Trafford as the first man to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy in two Grand Finals – setting a never to be beaten record of winning every single vote for his brilliant performance for Leeds against St Helens in 2011. Our predecessors celebrated the contribution made by Harry Sunderland to rugby league in this country when they introduced the Harry Sunderland Trophy for the 1965 Championship Final, following his death in Manchester in 1964.

“After it was awarded to the Man of the Match in nine Championship Finals – the last of them to Mike Stephenson of Dewsbury in 1973 – the Harry Sunderland Trophy was transferred to the end-of-season Premiership competition from 1974 to 1997, with Andy Farrell winning the last two following his performances for Wigan.

“The Harry Sunderland Trophy was then transferred to the Grand Final for the Man of the Match Award winner. Since the introduction of the play-offs and the Grand Final to determine the Super League champions in 1998, there have been suggestions that we should recognise an outstanding player of the Super League era. We believe that now is the right time, to make a change that brings the award recognition into the new era, and Rob Burrow is the right man.”