“ULTIMATELY we were all just trying to help a mate.”

Those are the words of rugby legend Kevin Sinfield, from Oldham, who insists his OBE for motor neurone disease fundraising is a team award.

Sinfield’s friend and former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Rob Burrow was diagnosed with the condition in December 2019. Sinfield, 40, set out last December to run seven marathons in seven days amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The "7 in 7" challenge – which referenced Burrow’s old shirt number at Leeds – initially hoped to raise £77,777 but ultimately generated an incredible £2.2m. Further funds were raised by those inspired to emulate Sinfield, while medical research charity LifeArc agreed last month to match the £500,000 of the money Sinfield raised which had been earmarked for research.

Sinfield, who has talked about doing a walk over a “crazy distance” later this year to raise even more money, said: “(The OBE) is for all those people who have given a little bit of themselves to helping Rob and making his journey a little easier.

“Not by any stretch do I feel it’s about me, because it isn’t. It’s about everybody who has played a small part.

“I feel a bit selfish on the back of the 7 in 7, because I never thought that would give me that self-satisfaction and warm glow that I got. Ultimately we’re all just trying to help a mate, but the support was immense.

“The money we were able to generate and having a say in how that was spent has been wonderful. It’s certainly the greatest thing I’ve been a part of.”

Sally Light, the chief executive of the MND Association, paid tribute to Sinfield’s phenomenal efforts.

Light told the PA news agency: “I have personally worked with Kevin over the last 18 months as he has raised funds and awareness for the association, inspired by his long-standing friendship with Rob Burrow, who is now living with MND.

"I have found him to be a very generous and humble man, who simply wants to support people living with this brutal disease."

Sinfield, who received an MBE in 2014, was awarded the OBE for his charitable efforts.

He added: “It's really nice and it’s a big honour for everybody involved in any fundraising for the MND Association over the last 18 months.”