Leeds Rhinos legend Burrow inspires Ackworth Jaguars to reform

Ackworth Jaguars have drawn inspiration from Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow in reforming their open age team.
Rob Burrow, Dave Backhouse and Lee DeanRob Burrow, Dave Backhouse and Lee Dean
Rob Burrow, Dave Backhouse and Lee Dean

Burrow, 38, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year, had given up his time to coach the Jaguars between 2004 and 2010, before the team folded, and when a group of former Jaguars players heard news of his plight, they wanted to show support for their fellow clubmate.

David Backhouse and Will Jordan are childhood friends of Burrow, having played in the same junior team, Featherstone Travellers Saints, and they decided to reform the team for a fundraising match that would help raise awareness of motor neurone disease and funds for the MND Association.

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The first training session was on a cold, wet, and misty Saturday morning with fewer than 20 people in attandance but as the word got out, more and more former players got involved.

Ackworth Jaguars are pictured with Rob BurrowAckworth Jaguars are pictured with Rob Burrow
Ackworth Jaguars are pictured with Rob Burrow

The fundraising match was originally planned for last March, giving the players 12 weeks to get in shape and organised under the tutelage of another couple of former players Andy Morgan and Gary Roberts.

Behind the scenes, a lot of work was also going on to raise funds through sponsorship and sourcing a new kit.

With the match approaching, Burrow volunteered to coach the side once again, assisted by another former Featherstone Travellers Saints junior, former Castleford Tigers and Sheffield Eagles player and current York City Knights head coach James Ford.

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Featherstone Rovers allowed Jaguars to train on their pitch and Burrow attended the coaching sessions in the lead-up to the game against Goole Vikings, which was on track to raise more then £10,000 for Burrow and the MND Association.

However, progress was halted by the first Covid-19 lockdown and there was no option but to postpone the match, which was massively disappointing.

Jaguars remain committed to getting the game played as soon as possible, with hopes that it could become an annual fund-raising event.

The story doesn’t end there for Jaguars however and the interest in the game has also resulted in the club reforming permanently, with great support coming from the Featherstone Rovers Foundation.

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Former Rovers captain Ian Hardman has agreed to become Jaguars’ head coach in a big coup for the new club, and he has overseen encouraging training sessions that have attracted players with a good mix of youth and experience.

Martyn Dickinson has also been instrumental in setting-up the first Ackworth Jaguars junior team, with the Featherstone Rovers Foundation again playing a big role in supporting and getting the initiative off the ground. An under-sevens team, led by Dickinson, is planning to join the Yorkshire Youth League in 2021.

All the hard work culminated in the reformed open age Ackworth Jaguars’ first rugby match in almost a decade, played at their spiritual home of Carr Bridge playing fields, which ended in a win over old rivals Upton.

Jaguars will compete in the Pennine League in 2021 and they are sure to continue to draw inspiration from Rob Burrow when they get back onto the pitch.

To donate to the Ackworth Jaguars’ fundraising cause in aid of Rob and the MND Association visit the page at www.gofundme.com/ackworth-jaguars-charity-rugby-match