Rob Burrow: Sally Nugent reveals her NTA nomination
Sitting in Rob’s backyard a few days ago, watching his kids play on the trampoline, I can see his face light up as his daughter Macy does another dizzying somersault. She bounces off her feet and curtsies – just like the gymnasts she’s seen at the Olympics.
At that point, part of me understands what he means when he says he’s lucky. He radiates pride. He is surrounded by the rough and tumble, the chaos of family life. But more than anything, he is surrounded by love.
A member of the Leeds Rhinos rugby league team, he is a sporting hero. But here it’s just daddy.
Rob Burrow was diagnosed with motor neuron disease 20 months ago. At the time, the doctor said he had about two years to live.
After the initial shock of the diagnosis, he decided to defy the odds. For a 5-foot-4 man who has played rugby at the highest level, I wouldn’t dare bet against him now.
I say this because Rob and his wife Lindsey aren’t just people we’ve worked with on BBC Breakfast. They made us all feel like part of the family.
We have been with them through the ups and downs, shared the small victories and compassionate with them when the disease pushes them back.
I sometimes marvel at how open they have been with us, from day one.
Sally with Rugby League hero Rob Burrow
Our story started in December 2019. I was working on BBC Sports Personality Of The Year with my brilliant producer Claire Ryan.
We are a team. If you’ve ever seen me do something that looks good on TV, you can bet Claire put it together.
Every year we go behind the scenes to share some of the insights you don’t get from the glossy program. It’s one of my favorite jobs of the year.
That night, we were following our plan – to film behind the scenes of the show live as the winners came to talk to us. But that year it was different. Something happened in the auditorium that still gives me goosebumps when I remember it now.
Former Scottish Rugby and Lions legend Doddie Weir received the Helen Rollason Special Award from Princess Anne. As he slowly walked through the crowd, the bagpipes played Flower of Scotland and everyone stood up for him.
On stage, he spoke about his battle with MND and how he was not going to give in, how he was using his competitive advantage to fight and fight and fight.
We had no idea that in Yorkshire Rob Burrow was watching this speech having been diagnosed a few days earlier.
I knew Doddie from some rugby player friends, and the next day we had a chat with him and his family over breakfast.
We planned to meet him and film something with him, his charitable foundation and the search for a cure.
But before we could do that, Rob’s news was made public.
At this point our editor Richard Frediani gave us the go-ahead to start filming with Rob and Doddie and former footballer Stephen Darby, three men with the worst news in common.
All three had played professional sports at the highest level, they had been told they had a terminal illness that would leave them locked in a body that no longer functions. The first time we got them together was in Scotland in a lovely hotel, not too far from Doddie’s house.
We had one of the most remarkable conversations I can remember.
Nothing was off limits and I hope that somehow this interview helped them and many others to watch back home. They spoke of their fears for themselves and their families, and all said they didn’t like the idea of needing to be treated in any way.
That day, in a small room in Scotland, Rob Burrow said these words which have stuck with us all. “I’m not giving up now. I have too many reasons to live “
Then the world changed.
Sally with Stephen, Doddie and Rob
Just as we started filming the documentary with Rob in Yorkshire, the country went into lockdown.
It was the worst possible time for a man who had just learned he had a terminal illness and who was desperate to make memories with his young family.
Their dream family vacation in Florida did not happen. Parties and family reunions have been suspended.
And for our documentary team, we suddenly had to find a way to keep working while protecting Rob from Covid. Our biggest worry was that Rob would get sick. I started traveling to Yorkshire to spend time with the whole family. Rob’s mom and dad, Geoff and Irene met me at his old rugby club, Featherstone Juniors.
As we were together on the pitch, Geoff wondered if he was to blame for encouraging Rob to play rugby as a child.
Irene said she was only able to cope because the doctor had given her medication to help her cope. Geoff broke down briefly – the only time I ever saw him do that. The rest of the time he fights for his son, looking for a cure, looking for anything that could save them time.
I know they probably don’t want to be in the spotlight talking about these things on TV, but they’re doing it for Rob. I’m so lucky to be their friend and when Geoff texts me now he calls me “our Sally”. It is my privilege to know them.
That summer we all went to the North Yorkshire coast together. If Florida hadn’t happened, the traditional Burrow family vacation would definitely have happened.
We met at the trailer park where Rob’s children – Macy’s, Maya and Jackson – could play on the swings and run out to sea with their grandparents, aunts and uncles. It was magical.
With the confinement easing up a bit, Rob was determined to keep the kids having fun: “If the kids are happy, I’m happy.”
But the reality of the MND was right in front of us. Rob could no longer walk without assistance and needed a wheelchair to get around. If Lindsey found it difficult, she never showed it.
I think Rob’s determination even inspired our team at BBC Breakfast.
He’s a Rugby League superstar, but the sport doesn’t have much national coverage. We knew that if we could edit our movie and show the country this amazing story, everyone would fall in love with him a little bit, just like us.
So we convinced the owners of the channel to broadcast “Rob Burrow My Year with MND” on BBC Two in early October.
It had a huge reaction and now our documentary with Rob has been nominated for a prestigious National Television Award.
The Closing Plans are Rob using new technology to talk to us for the first time. He just said, “Hi hi”. I cried my eyes but you won’t see that in the movie.
What you will see is a story of love and hope and never giving up. You will see a family hoping for the best when the worst happens. We know Rob is trying to rewrite the stars. But we’ll all keep trying with him for as long as we can.
To vote for the documentary at the National Televisions Awards, visit www.nationaltvawards.com/vote
More about this article: Read More
This notice was published: 2021-08-28 21:01:00