RFL Chairman Simon Johnson will take part in a fund-raising exercise for Rob Burrow after the announcement last week that the former Leeds star has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
The walk, alongside Bradford Bulls supporters, will be from Odsal Stadium to Headingley when Leeds Rhinos host the Bulls for a pre-season game on Sunday 12 January.
“I’m afraid MND has been too close to home too many times,” Johnson told League Express.
“We lost Bob Stott, a former RFL director, to MND, and I have a first cousin who is also fighting bravely against it.
“So to see a legend of the game and someone so popular who is now at the beginning of his battle really hit home for me. I was with Kevin Sinfield at the RFL Board recently and it was clear how hard the news was hitting Rob’s friends and the community.
“I have been so impressed by the generosity of spirit and support that the Rugby League community has poured out to Rob. Players, former players, clubs putting shirts on sale, relaunching Testimonials and making appeals to raise money for Rob are all brilliant.
“The fund is now at well into six figures and I have been bowled over by it.”
And Johnson explains why he is ready to take part in a fund-raising exercise himself.
“Bradford supporter Mick Gledhill was putting together a group of people to walk to Headingley from Odsal on the day of the pre-season game, and I thought it was the least I could do to join them. Carl Hall, the RFL vice-president, will join us. So RFL officials and supporters will come together in an extraordinary cause.
“It’s not just about Rob and his family; it’s about raising awareness of MND and hopefully we can support research that might ultimately alleviate this condition.”
Johnson rejects suggestions that the illness is linked specifically to Rugby League.
Unfortunately MND appears to be a cruel, random disease that can strike at anybody.
“In Rob’s interview he said himself that he’s been unlucky and he said it so movingly. I have never met him and I don’t expect to, but I find him such an impressive individual.
“He will approach this fight with all the strength and courage with which he played the game. The most important thing is that Rob and his family have as much quality time together as we can. The compassion that has been shown is for Rob and his family to spend as much time together as possible. Our charity Rugby League Cares exists to support people in this situation. Rob is at the start of this fight and the game will support him.”
Meanwhile Johnson has confirmed that no decision on the future of the England coaching job is likely to be made for the time being.
“We said we would wait until the first quarter of the season. We have a board meeting in February and we won’t be making a decision until then.
“It is an important decision and we are taking expert advice, but not rushing to make a decision. I think that’s the right thing to do.”