Over 100 people from across Yorkshire took to the University of Leeds' netball courts recently as part of a Leeds Rhinos Netball fundraiser for Rugby legend, Rob Burrow.
Rob, who was recently diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, is a hero to many a rugby fan in Leeds - and globally - having enjoyed an illustrious career playing for Rhinos as well as his country before retiring in 2017. Since his announcing the diagnosis last December, people the world over have been donating money into a fund set up by Leeds Rhinos to assist Rob and his family as they come to terms with this degenerative condition, for which there is no cure. The netball arm of the Rhinos family was keen to do its bit in as fitting a way as possible, using sport as a mechanism to raise funds and taking to the courts for an afternoon of fun, friendly matchplay.
18 teams competed in the mixed tournament which began at 2pm last Sunday, with 9 apiece split over the two full-sized courts at the University's sports and fitness suite, The Edge, battling it out in 8-minute matches until around 6pm, when 4 semi-finalists were established. The Stars and Birky Blinders, both having had a fantastic run in their respective leagues, were no match for Woodhouse Grove andAll Saints who took a comfortable win apiece in their semis. After an extremely close-fought final, it was the team of teachers and staff from the independent school, Woodhouse Grove, who claimed the victory.
Participants of all abilities and ages attended the event, some regular players from teams in leagues around Yorkshire, with others from the nearby universities and schools playing for the first time in years or indeed, ever. BBC Sports journalist, Tanya Arnold, joined a team for the day alongside Rhinos Women rugby prop, Danika Priim, eagerly swapping her oval ball for a sphere-shaped one for the afternoon to support Rob. Rhinos Netball Director, Anna Carter - who, despite her role as a performance coach had not played a game in some years - also took to the court numerous times as she subbed in for different team players where needed. Many attendees admitted to not having seen a netball court since their school days and some male participants said they had never before picked up a netball.
While the players showed their support on the court, a significant crowd of families and friends cheered them on from the sidelines and bolstered the event's funds further through purchasing raffle tickets. A highly successful day all round, not least in terms of the team fees and raffle generating in excess of £2,000 toward Rob's fund, but also in bringing together players of mixed ability from across the community and showing our game at its absolute best.
Director Carter, evidently thrilled, had this to say as the fundraiser came to a close:
"It's amazing what you can do within a few days to get people geared up for an event like this, the support for Rob has been phenomenal and we're really pleased to see our own community so keen to be involved. This will have reignited the passion for netball for many, I'm absolutely sure of that. A few sore bodies the day after no doubt - including my own! But what a day and thank you to everyone from Rhinos Netball who helped make this happen and for everyone who came along."
Donations to Rob's fund can be made at the link below; your support is appreciated.