AT the 2022 Sports Personality of the Year Awards, fans were left in tears when Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow took to the stage.
The pair were honoured at the BBC ceremony for fundraising and raising awareness of motor neurone disease, with rugby league legend Burrow taking centre stage after winning the Helen Rollason Award.
His close pal, Sinfield was there by his side – as he as always been – since his MND diagnosis in 2019.
For Sinfield, the current defence coach for England’s rugby union team, has been relentless with his efforts in generating charitable donations for Burrow’s cause.
Last month, he ran seven marathons in seven days – making £2.7million in the process.
Sinfield has also been crucial in leading calls for better funding to help find a cure for the disease, as well as a £5m appeal to build a new MND centre in Leeds – where the two played a combined 1,013 games for the Rhinos, as part of what was considered the club’s “golden generation”.
In his acceptance speech for hsi special award last night, Sinfield said: “Rob is probably the most inspirational bloke in the UK. He has inspired us to be better friends.
“In sport and certainly in rugby, the connections you make, the friends don’t just stop when the whistle goes. Sport is powerful enough to bring communities together.”
In an apparent dig at the government, Sinfield continued: “What we witnessed was a nation that cared about the MND community. MND isn’t incurable, it’s just underfunded. We’ve got to keep fighting. We will keep banging the drum.”
Sinfield, now 42, enjoyed a storied career with Leeds Rhinos.
The former loose forward played his entire career with the club – and captained the side to seven Super League championships and two Challenge Cup successes.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest kickers in rugby league history, he is their all-time leading points scorer with 3,967 points.
Rather criminally, he earned just 26 caps for England and 14 for Great Britain.
But in 2015, Sinfield signed off from the sport in style by captaining Leeds to a 2015 Super League Grand Final win.
His playing career is unparalleled, so it was inevitable he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s honours list of 2014, which was upgraded to a OBE in 2021.
What happened next, though, is certainly enough to earn Sinfield a knighthood.
Three years ago, his former team-mate Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
That set the tone for Sinfield’s greatest challenge yet. He would raise money for his friend, while raising awareness of the cruel illness.
He set himself a £77,777 goal for funds for Burrow and the MND Association – declaring he would run seven marathons in as many days in 2020.
By the time he began his first race, Sinfield had exceeded that total – calling the achievement “completely overwhelming”.
After completing the seventh marathon, the shattered sportsman revealed it has “probably been the most special week in my life”.
He also admitted it superseded anything he had done in his rugby league career.
The next day, the donation reached over £2million – with £500,000 put aside for research projects.
Sinfield wasn’t done there, either.
Second and third fundraisers
In 2021, Sinfield announced a second fundraiser – running 101 miles between Leicester Tigers’ home ground Welford Road Stadium, and Leeds Rhinos’ Headingley in 24 hours.
The initial goal was a modest £100,000 – given his past achievements.
Of course, Sinfield smashed the event called the ‘Extra Mile Challenge’ – which he described at the time as “the toughest challenge I have ever attempted”.
Better still, over £2million was raised – as Sinfield vowed he would continue to run until a cure for MND was found.
A knighthood was mentioned – but Sinfield batted that off by saying the calls were “really nice but we’re a team”.
One year later, his third fundraiser saw the 2012 Golden Boot winner run seven ultramarathons (40 miles) in as many days – beginning at at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh and concluding at Old Trafford in Manchester, during the final of the Rugby League World Cup final.
Again, he raised over £2million. In short, Sinfield’s remarkable act has seen him earn around £7million in donations.
If there’s a man more worthy of a knighthood, I’d like to see him.
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