The Garry Schofield Column: Sinfield’s amazing love for Rob Burrow

GARRY SCHOFIELD pays tribute to the incredible selflessness of Kevin Sinfield…

Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous… but truly remarkable.

What other person would have even thought of running 101 miles in 24 hours, never mind actually doing it?

Kevin Sinfield, inspired by the plight of his close friend and former Leeds team-mate Rob Burrow, has literally put his body in the line to raise millions for research into motor neurone disease through his various activities, including last year’s seven marathons in seven days. He is a truly amazing person.

His strength, mental as well as physical, resilience and sheer determination, not to mention his dedication to doing everything he can for Rob and his family and to raise awareness of a truly horrible illness, was crystal clear when I joined the many people on the streets of South Leeds early last Tuesday morning.

He was entering the final stages of his epic trek from Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road, where he now works as defence coach, to Headingley, where he graced the turf for so many years, then operated behind the scenes, and it was impossible not to be in awe of both his achievement and the sheer effort and willpower which had gone into it.

And the more I think about it, the more frustrated I get that he’s no longer involved in the game he loves and to which he has devoted the bulk of his working life so far.

We have a special, special person in King Kev, and I can’t help going back to 2015, when in the wake of leading Leeds to the treble in his farewell season, he was runner-up to Andy Murray for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

It was the first time a Rugby League player had come anywhere near the top three and it made him a household name.

What, as a sport, did we do to build on that recognition and use it for positive purposes? Nothing!

In fact, we allowed him to move rugby union, and while he returned as a director of rugby, first with the RFL, then Leeds, he was allowed to again leave, this time for Leicester, earlier this year.

What’s become as clear as Kevin’s strength, resilience and determination is the fact that we have to try to persuade him to come back – preferably as chief executive of the RFL.

Thanks to his superb fundraising feats and the widespread coverage he has deservedly gained, he’s even more of a household name, and no doubt known far beyond these shores. His first love is Rugby League, and at a crucial time for the game, he has the ability and influence to go out and get that sponsorship and publicity we are so badly in need of.

Of course, it won’t be easy.

In the old days, it was said that Rugby League was a game for professionals run by amateurs, union a game for amateurs run by professionals.

These days, union players are well paid, and the administrators still know what they are doing, and in Kevin Sinfield, they know a good thing when they see one.

They understand and value all the things he brings, in terms of spreading the word as well as coaching.

A glance at the Premiership table, which Leicester top having won eight out of eight games, shows he is making a big contribution.

And it would be no surprise at all if Eddie Jones came calling and added him to the England set-up.

We know he keeps tabs on Rugby League and he already has Martin Gleeson and Anthony Seibold among his coaching panel.

A great move to Channel 4

We’ve dished out plenty of criticism to the people running Super League in recent years.

So, it’s only right to hand out some praise where it’s due, first for fixing the television deal with Channel 4, then taking Magic Weekend back to Newcastle for another year.

The Channel 4 agreement is for two years in the first instance and means the broadcaster will show ten games live each year, including two from the play-offs.

Amazingly, it will be the first time since Super League was formed that matches have been shown live free-to-air.

Back in the day, we had the occasional live game plus highlights shows like RL Action, with Keith Macklin and Richard Madeley, and Scrumdown, with John Helm and David Watkins, who I enjoyed listening to.

It will be good to have regular live matches that are free to access, with the first on Channel 4 between Leeds and Warrington at lunchtime on Saturday, February 12, two days after the season-opener, which is a Grand Final rematch between St Helens and Catalans and will be on Sky.

I very much welcome the Channel 4 deal.

It brings some more money into the game, it means more people will see Rugby League, which has to be a good thing, and it will also keep Sky and the BBC on their toes in terms of the way matches are covered.

I think both could do better. The former have become a bit stale while the latter sometimes try to do too much. It needs to be stripped back and simplified – viewers need a summary, not an essay.

My dream team for Channel 4 coverage would be Rod Studd anchoring the show, like Gary Lineker on Match of the Day, with Mark Wilson commentating and myself summarising.

Rod is an excellent, experienced presenter with plenty of interesting things to say and a good knowledge of and love of Rugby League.

He and I have worked together on the radio, and I’d really welcome the opportunity to give some open and honest opinions from the grounds.

I’m not a fan of copying the Aussies for the sake of it, but I think we can learn from the way they cover the game, and as I’ve said, in my opinion, both the BBC and Sky could improve their output.

When it comes to a touchline reporter, I think Kyle Amor would do a great job.

He has current experience, he’s knowledgeable, he speaks well and he has interesting things to say.

While we will also have Premier Sports covering the Championship as well as OuRLeague, in terms of free-to-air, there will also be the Challenge Cup and the World Cup on the BBC, so there’s plenty to look forward to.

As I said last week, the World Cup could be something really special, and there will be plenty of eyes on St James’ Park for the opening game between England and Samoa on Saturday, October 15.

So, there’s even more sense in staging Magic Weekend there for the second season running, this time on July 9/10.

Not that Newcastle needs another selling point, because to me, it’s easily the best place we’ve had the event.

One thing which would make it better is to have it on the Friday and Saturday, finishing under the floodlights each night.

St James’ generally has a good atmosphere, and I think a lot of people would agree that bulbs shining down on a pitch makes any sporting occasion better.

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