Former Leeds premiership winning coach Brian McClennan and star hooker Danny Buderus have paid tribute to Kevin Sinfield’s leadership after the club’s most successful captain completed seven marathons in seven days to raise more than $4 million for Rob Burrow and Motor Nuerone Disease.
With Burrow, the former Great Britain and Leeds halfback, diagnosed with MND last December, Sinfield set out to raise awareness of the disease and £77,777 but ended up capturing the hearts of England and fans around the world as he far exceeded his target.
The pair had played together at Leeds for 16 seasons and formed a remarkable bond as they helped the Rhinos to seven premierships, two Challenge Cup final triumphs and three World Club Challenge victories before Sinfield’s retirement in 2015.
McClennan, who oversaw the end of Australia’s 27-year international domination as Kiwis coach in 2005, was in charge of the Leeds teams that won the 2008 and 2009 Super League grand finals, while Buderus played in the club’s 2009 and 2011 premiership triumphs.
“Kevin is the captain of the greatest Leeds side in history and he is still the captain now,” said McClennan, who also coached the New Zealand Warriors in 2012.
“For Kevin to do seven marathons in seven days, I don’t know how the hell he has done that but he has always led by example and it is a testament to Kevin’s leadership.”
Buderus, who has captained Newcastle and NSW to success, said he was in awe of what Sinfield had achieved and the way Burrow had coped with the debilitating disease.
“It’s not just the fact that Kev has done seven marathons in seven days but to do under four hours for every marathon just shows how strong his mind is and every step he would have been thinking about Rob,” Buderus said.
“It’s just so inspiring and to see the way Rob is handling it and how he is getting on with his business to make sure he can get as much awareness out there for MND as possible just shows that they are two high quality people that we are lucky to have in our game.
“Knowing Kev, if he had raised £10,000 or £20,000, he would have still done that for Rob but to raise over £2 million is phenomenal.
“There is a special bond not just between Kev and Rob but all of the Leeds players of that era and Kev was running for all of us who have pulled on that Rhinos jersey.”
Other England-based members of the seven Leeds premiership winning teams Sinfield and Burrow had played together in, including Jamie Peacock, Barrie McDermott, Keith Senior, Danny McGuire, Ryan Bailey, Kylie Leuluai, Cheve Walker and Brett Delaney, have also supported the campaign.
“Full-time sportspeople will know that you create the best mates because you are in day-in and day-out working really hard with each other, you make all the sacrifices, you get video reviews and you stripped raw at times and you are there together,” McClennan said.
“All the other teams are doing the same thing and sometimes the margins of skill and talent are very narrow so it comes down to that connectivity and bond. That’s what these guys have, and they all worked hard together led by the great Kevin Sinfield, who is still captaining that group of men right now.
“When they went to Old Trafford they just knew what needed to be done to win and that’s a testament to the trust they had in each other, the bond and connection that existed between them and that connection wasn’t just on the football field, they are best mates off it.
“I texted Kevin after his finished the last marathon to ask how he was getting on and he said ‘my Achilles is pretty sore’ but anything he could do for Rob he would.”
Buderus also messaged Sinfield after he had completed his fifth consecutive marathon and the veteran of 521 Super League matches and 40 Tests replied almost immediately to thank him for his support before signing off with a large Rhinos emoji.
“Leeds is a special club full of special people,” Buderus said. “To see what they have done on the back of an awful year in the UK with COVID, I think a lot of people would have been looking for some inspiration and they found it in Kev and Rob.”