Former Leeds Rhinos scrum-half Rob Burrow has vowed to help Doddie Weir raise awareness of motor neurone disease following "unbelievable" support from the ex-Scotland rugby union international in the wake of his own recent diagnosis.
Burrow, who retired after winning his eighth Super League Grand Final at the end of the 2017 season, announced on Thursday that he is battling the illness.
But the 37-year-old is encouraged about the future after speaking this week with Weir, who won the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show on Sunday, and who released a documentary the following day on his own fight against MND, and his search for a cure.
"How lucky am I to be able to meet somebody who's in the press, has just won an award on Sunday, done a documentary on it and he's gone out of his way for me," said father-of-three Burrow on Weir.
"He's done three years of work, so I've got it at the best time in a way. He had nothing, he had to start doing this. I can't be better off in the circumstances really."
Fernando Ricksen (football): The Dutchman made headlines on and off the pitch during an eventful career that included six years with Rangers from 2000-2006. Ricksen also played for the likes of Zenit St Petersburg and Fortuna Sittard, as well as winning 12 caps with Holland. After being diagnosed with MND in 2013, he went on to raise £1million for research before his death in September, aged 43.
Doddie Weir (rugby union): The 49-year-old made 61 appearances for Scotland from 1990-2000. He played for Stewart's Melville, Melrose, Newcastle Falcons and Borders in a club career that spanned 17 years before his retirement in 2005. Weir announced he had MND in June 2017. He has since been a staunch fundraiser to help with research.
Jimmy Johnstone (football): Johnstone scored 129 goals in 515 appearances for Celtic before later playing for San Jose Earthquakes and Sheffield United. Jinky also won 23 caps for Scotland between 1964-74. Johnstone died in 2006 at the age of 61 after being diagnosed with MND five years earlier.
David Hagen (football): A midfielder, Hagen started his career with Rangers, before moving on to Hearts, Falkirk - where he spent five years and for whom he made 139 league appearances - Livingstone, Clyde and Peterhead. He also made seven appearances for the Scotland Under-21s. Hagen was diagnosed with MND in July 2018.
Lou Gehrig (baseball): After whom the disease is named in the United States. Gehrig played as a first baseman for the New York Yankees from 1923-1939, helping the team win the World Series six times. He was forced to retire from the sport, aged 36, before dying two years later in 1941, aged 37.
Don Revie (football): After a playing career that spanned 18 years, Revie made his name as a manager, notably with Leeds from 1961-1974 during which time the Whites became a force to be reckoned with before becoming England manager in 1974. His three years at the helm, however, failed to yield success. Revie died in 1989 after a two-year fight with MND.
Joost Van Der Westhuizen (rugby union): An inspirational scrum-half, Van der Westhuizen scored 38 tries in 89 appearances for South Africa, notably helping the Springboks win the World Cup on home soil in 1995. After being confirmed with MND in 2011, he set up a foundation to raise awareness and funds before his death at the age of 45 in 2017.
Stephen Darby (football): After starting his career with Liverpool, full-back Darby most notably made his name with Bradford, making over 200 appearances and captaining the side for two seasons. He was part of the League Two Bantams side that reached the League Cup final in 2013, only to lose 5-0 to Swansea. In September last year, Darby was forced to retire, aged 29, after discovering he had MND. He has set up the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation to fund support for families affected by MND, and research a cure.
Lenny Johnrose (football): Preston-born midfielder Johnrose enjoyed a 16-year playing career between 1988-2004, including spells with Blackburn, Preston, Hartlepool, Bury, Burnley and Swansea before moving into teaching. Johnrose was diagnosed with MND in March 2017.
Burrow, who revealed watching Weir on Sports Personality and his documentary were "very inspiring before even meeting him", added: "In fact, if I hadn't have met him, I was still inspired enough to kick on. Just to ask him questions was really interesting."
Burrow is now determined to play his part alongside Weir in the ongoing struggle to combat what is at present an incurable disease.
"Listening to Doddie makes you think 'Wow! I will be inundated with people trying to help me'," he said.
"But as Doddie says, what would the postman do, or the guy who works at a shop? They might not get diagnosed for months.
"I got diagnosed in three weeks because I was lucky that I had people who could get me private health care. Doddie said he had it for a year before he was diagnosed.
"Because there's no help for it, I'm more than happy to get on board with Doddie and maybe start something up down here where people can be helped."
Claiming that speaking with Weir "was amazing", Burrow added: "If I could do that in a year's time for somebody that's just started, that's great. Awareness is massive.
"In 10 years' time they might find a cure and heal somebody, so I'm massively keen to help. Life changes now and it'll never be the same, but if I can do what I can with awareness and funds then I'm keen to do that.
“I’m young, 37, when the average age is about 60 - older people might give up but I’m not going to.
“The average lifespan is three years, but I’m a lot younger.
“I haven’t got a goal in my head, but unrealistic is 10 years, realistic I think is five years.
“I’ll always remain positive, and with the support I’ve got around me how can I not be?”
Burrow, who made 492 appearances as a one-club man with Leeds, as well as winning 15 caps for England and five for Great Britain, is adamant he now "just wants to get on with life", to such an extent he will continue in his role as head coach of Leeds' reserve team for as long as he is able.
"While I am able-bodied and feel fit, strong and healthy, I want to do normal things and not be treated any differently," said Burrow.
"What I don't want is pity. I think that's the scary thing, that people feel sorry for you. I don't want that, I just want to crack on like normal."
Burrow, who also won the Challenge Cup in 2014 and 2015 with Leeds, as well as three World Club Challenges and three League Leaders Shields, already has the full support from many in the game.
Although Leeds director of rugby Kevin Sinfield has declared Burrow's news to be "devastating" and "heartbreaking for Rob and his young family", he has no doubt he will fight the disease with the same bravery he showed on the pitch.
"Throughout his career, Rob overcame the odds to become a legend of the game and I know he will tackle this challenge with the exact same positive determination," said Sinfield.
What is MND?
MND describes a group of diseases that affect nerves in the brain and spinal cord, called motor neurones, which send messages to the muscles.
As the messages stop reaching them, the muscles gradually weaken and waste away. This affects how a person talks, eats, drinks and breathes.
What are the early signs of MND?
The symptoms of MND can appear gradually and may not be obvious at first.
They can include: weakness in the ankles or legs, slurred speech which can develop into difficulty swallowing, a weak grip, muscle cramps and twitches, weight loss and shrinking of arm and leg muscles.
Who does the condition affect?
MND is very rare, affecting up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time.
It is more likely to occur in those who are over the age of 50, but can affect adults of all ages.
What causes MND?
It is still not clear what causes MND but it is thought a combination of genetic and environmental factors may lead to its development. Research into the disease is ongoing.
Is there a cure?
Not at the moment. The degenerative condition is always fatal and can significantly shorten life expectancy, but a few people do live for decades. Treatments like a feeding tube or mask to help the individual breathe air may be needed as the condition worsens over time.
"As a club, Rob will receive our full support and we will be working with him to chart the way forward."
Bradford Bulls head coach John Kear said: "It's very sad indeed. I've known Rob for a number of years now. He has always represented the sport with dignity, and his ability speaks for itself.
"Any support we can give Rob from the Bradford Bulls, as a coaching staff, as a playing staff, as a club, then we will give him that.
"I know Rob will fight it, and fight it with all his heart. All we can do is support him in that quest, and we will do that."
Castleford Tigers added: "The best wishes from everybody at the Tigers go to Rob and his family. We'll be doing what we can as a club to help support the fundraising campaign."