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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Doddie Weir death: rugby star dies at 52 – illness explained

‘RIP Big Man’ – tribute flood in for Weir, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in December 2016.

The rugby world is in mourning following the announcement Doddie Weir has died at the age of 52.

Scottish Rugby Union announced his death in a statement released on behalf of Weir’s family. The former player was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in December 2016.

A Scotland international, who won 61 caps, used his profile to push for better research to be carried out into MND and appealed for improved care to be given to those afflicted by it. A man famed for his crunching tackles and thunderous carries, he charged straight ahead when dealing with the problems he faced after his diagnosis.

The ability to close his fist was one of the first faculties to escape him as MND, a rapidly progressing terminal illness that effectively stops brain signals reaching the muscles, took hold. But it did not stop him fighting.

The late BBC commentator Bill McLaren once famously described Weir as being “on the charge like a mad giraffe”, but it was with astonishing grace and humility that he faced up to his disease. Weir used his profile to push for better research to be carried out into MND and appealed for improved care to be given to those afflicted by it.

One of his first fundraising efforts was a gala dinner held in London hosted by former Scotland team-mate Kenny Logan and his TV presenter wife Gabby. He insisted the event be called a ‘Night of Laughter’. In an interview with the Sunday Times just a few months after he broke the news of his fate to the world, he shrugged off the notion that his final days might be filled with self pity.

What has Scottish Rugby said?

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father, Doddie,” read a statement from the family via the SRU. “Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive, and his strength of character powered him through his rugby and business careers and, we believe, enabled him to fight the effects of MND for so many years.

Doddie Weir has died at the age of 52, the Scottish Rugby Union has announced. Picture: PA

“Doddie put the same energy and even more love and fun into our lives together: he was a true family man. It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him. MND took so much from Doddie, but never his spirit and determination. He battled MND so bravely, and whilst his own battle may be over, his fight continues through his foundation, until a cure is found for all those with this devastating disease.

“Hamish, Angus, Ben and I would like to thank everyone for your support and for respecting our privacy at this difficult time. Kathy Weir.”

Tributes flood in for Doddie Weir

Former club Newcastle said in a statement: “It is with desperate sadness that Newcastle Falcons has learned of the passing of our former player and lifetime friend, Doddie Weir OBE.

“A legend as a player, Doddie helped the Falcons ascend into the top flight and was an instrumental part of the squad which lifted the 1997-98 Premiership title – still the only team to achieve this remarkable feat the first season after promotion. Following his diagnosis of motor neurone disease in 2017 Doddie showed his characteristic mixture of determination and good humour in raising many millions for research into the currently-incurable condition.

“It was our honour to display his foundation’s logo on the front of our shirts when we played at St James’ Park in front of a club record crowd of more than 30,000 in 2018, and to play our part in supporting their incredible fundraising activity. All associated with Newcastle Falcons would like to express our sadness at hearing the news of Doddie’s passing, whilst at the same time remembering the many happy memories and good times of which he was a central part.”

MND Association tweeted: “ We’re sorry to hear that Doddie Weir OBE has died. Since sharing his MND diagnosis in 2017, Doddie became an inspiration to many, raising awareness and campaigning tirelessly on behalf of those with MND. Our thoughts are with Doddie’s wife Kathy, his 3 sons, family and friends.”

Six Nations official account wrote: “ A truly sad day for rugby with the passing of one of the game’s most-loved characters, Doddie Weir. The reception he recently received at Murrayfield spoke volumes about his standing in the game and in the fans’ hearts. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

Former rugby player and presenter Brian Moore said: “ Very sorry to hear about the death of Doddie Weir. An outstanding man in every sense and one who will be sorely missed. RIP Big Man.”

British and Irish Lions account addded: “We’re devastated to hear of the passing of Doddie. A Scotland legend, his determination to raise awareness & help find a cure for MND epitomised his personality. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, all connected with Scottish Rugby and his charity @MNDoddie.

Gavin Hastings tweeted: “Doddie. You have been a giant amongst big men. You have never complained, never felt sorry for yourself but have sought to make the world a more comfortable place for those who come after you. RIP Big Man and our love goes out to Kathy and the boys.”

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac began his post-match press conference following a Autumn Nations Series game by paying tribute to Weir.

“On behalf of the Welsh rugby public and the Welsh national team, we would like to send our condolences to Doddie’s family,” Pivac said. A terrific man, I was fortunate enough to meet him after a Scotland-Wales game.

“He has done a lot for the game, and our condolences go out to his family and friends.”

Rugby league side Leeds Rhinos paid tribute to Weir following the news of his death. Weir developed a close association with the Super League club after former Rhinos player Rob Burrow was diagnosed with MND in 2019.

A Rhinos tweet read: “It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the passing of Rugby Union star and MND campaigner Doddie Weir OBE. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends and this extremely sad time, rest in peace Doddie.”

Presenter Dan Walker wrote: “I hope his family never forget how much he was loved.”

What is MND?

According to the Motor Neurone Disease Association, MND affects the nerves also known as motor neurones. These particular nerves found in your brain and spinal cord, allow it to communicate with your muscles. This means you could have issues with your mobility and movement, and you may get a wide variety of symptoms.

It is also known by different names across the world as there are four main types of the condition. Each type is not a separate disease, but a different form that can change the way it affects you. The problem is that there are overlapping symptoms so it can be difficult to diagnose. It generally becomes clearer over time, which means your diagnosis may have to be reviewed and changed along the way.



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