Leeds scrum half Rob Burrow is set to become only the 12th player in the club’s 119-year history to make 400 appearances for the Headingley outfit as they kick off the easter weekend with tomorrow night’s West Yorkshire derby against Bradford at Odsal.
Burrow, who scored in last Friday’s win over Wakefield to take him to 12th in the club’s all-time points scorers list, made his debut in 2001 and has twice won the Harry Sunderland Award as man of the match in the Grand Final (2007 and 2011).
Leeds president Harry Jepson, who has been watching the sport since the 1920s, believes the diminutive player’s performances on the biggest of stages – and not just his record of appearances – puts him right up there with the greats.
“Rob has been an absolutely first-class member of the group and, quite apart from his brilliance on the field, he is a very sociable lad and extremely popular who always has a word for everyone and a smile,” said Jepson.
“When I first saw Rob in action, I couldn’t have imagined that he would sustain a top-class career at the peak of the sport for ten seasons. I thought he might struggle because of the changing nature of the way the game is played.
“I can remember an era when there were a dozen like him. Almost every top club had half-backs who were renowned for their improvisation and they often came as a pair – Halifax’s Kielty and Dean, Shannon and McCue at Widnes, Todd and Thornton with Hunslet and Castleford greats Hardisty and Hepworth.
“Now systems don’t allow as much for individuality or unplanned flair and unexplainable actions like Rob’s in the Grand Final in 2011.
“It has always been part of his make-up, possibly because he comes from a part of the world where great half-backs grow on trees.
“Rob is simply a phenomenon. His speed takes the eye but he is equally well known and appreciated for his bravery and unyielding defence out wide where he is endlessly targeted by the big men but rarely, if ever, comes up wanting.
“Fearless and dedicated, his 2007 Harry Sunderland award on the day Jeff Stevenson’s death was announced was incredibly fitting.
“He is so positive and looks to life as an experience to be enjoyed. There is nothing humdrum about him.”