When Kevin Sinfield joined Leicester Tigers from Leeds Rhinos he raised eyebrows by running home two months into his first season.
Far from turning his back on a challenge the seven-time Super League champion was actually ploughing headlong into one.
For 24 hours he put his body through purgatory for great pal Rob Burrow to go the 101 miles between Welford Road and Headingley Stadium.
In doing so he raised more than £2.1 million for the MND Association, took his fund-raising in two challenges to almost £5m and earned the unending respect of both rugby codes.
“I went through a whole range of different emotions on the run,” Sinfield admitted last night as he collected the Rugby Players’ Association Blyth Spirit Award which recognises courage in the face of adversity.
“In the middle of the night, when we’d not had any sleep, when we were tired and hungry, the weather wasn’t great.. I’ve blanked it out of my mind now, but at the time it took a fair bit out of me.
“The thing is though, it was worth every step. You don’t just stop being a team-mate because the rugby stops.”
Sinfield is clear the real hero is not him and makes a point of saying he accepts the award on behalf of Burrow and indeed Doddie Weir, rugby greats not only battling motor neurone disease but leading the campaign for a cure.
“You talk about champions and wonderful people in sport and you don’t have to look too far in ether code of rugby to find two of the greatest men that either code has seen,” Sinfield said.
“The courage, the strength, the support they’ve given to millions across the country through what they’ve done and how they’ve gone about it has been truly inspiring.”
He pauses to add the name of footballer Stephen Darby before adding: “These guys have shown us all what it means to fight. The country should be really proud of them.
Andy Lewis Photography)
“But we’ve got to keep banging the drum and keep trying to do our bit. The funds and the awareness are what make a difference.”
Which is why Sinfield, 41, plans a third fundraiser before the year is out. But before that there is the considerable matter of Leicester trying to win their first Premiership since 2013.
“It’s been brilliant to book a home semi-final but we understand that this is the business end of the season,” he said.
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“We haven’t achieved anything yet. It’s really important we keep our foot on the pedal and really go for it.”
Eterlast RPA Awards 2022 Winners
Players’ Player of the Year: Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins). Young Player: Freddie Steward (Leicester). Women’s Player: Marlie Packer.
Kevin Sinfield OBE was speaking following his RPA Blyth Spirit Award in association with hasta win at the Eterlast RPA Awards 2022.
Bath’s woeful season has prompted a major restructuring with team boss Stuart Hooper shunted into a general manager role, incoming Munster coach Johaan van Graan upgraded from head coach to head of rugby and Ed Griffiths leaving the club four months after becoming chairman on a permanent basis.