Luke Burgess sets his sights on UK Red Empire State 500 glory

Luke Burgess sets his sights on UK Red Empire State 500 glory

Rugby League Cares is delighted to announce that former Leeds Rhinos, Salford and South Sydney Rabbitohs prop Luke Burgess will be riding with the charity on its epic fundraising adventure, the UK Red Empire State 500.

Luke joins his younger brother Sam in signing up for the ride, a 500-plus miles off-road cycling challenge from Niagara Falls, USA, to the evocative New York City in early May.

The brothers will ride alongside a host of other top Rugby League stars, including Danny McGuire, Nathan McAvoy, Keith Senior, Robbie Hunter-Paul and Canada captain, MacKenzie Fane.

“When Sam got back from his recent trip to the UK he was buzzing about taking part in this crazy cycling challenge to New York and, if I’m honest, I was a bit envious,” said Luke, who now works as a Strategic Environment Executive for South Sydney Rabbitohs, an ambassadorial role managing relationships with the NRL club’s partners and sponsors.

“I asked loads of questions and when it became clear that South would give me time off to take part, I jumped at the chance to sign up.

“I know from my time at Salford and Leeds what a great job RL Cares does looking after the playing community and this is my opportunity to put something back.

“I’m sharing my fundraising page with Sam and we’re going to split what we raise with RL Cares and my old Leeds team-mate and friend Rob Burrow.

“Our dad, Mark died from motor neurone disease and as a family we know how devastating it is. 500 miles on a bike is going to be incredibly tough but it’s nothing compared to what Rob and his family are facing.

‘I’m sure people over here in Australia will get behind us: we have set a fundraising target of 100,000 dollars and we’re aiming to smash it.”

Luke combines his role at Souths with a part-time modelling career, which has been the subject of some banter with his friends and family.

“I got a bit of stick at first but the boys all embrace it now. I just hope I’m a model cyclist when I do the Empire State 500 as I have bit of history!

“​We were away on our annual Christmas family getaway to Rusty’s (Russell Crowe) farm north of Sydney, which always involves lots of outdoor activities and fun. This particular year it involved a mountain biking day through the Australian bush.

“​Rusty had organised a great selection of mountain bikes for everyone: there were around 12 of us that took on the challenge, including all three of my brothers.

“It was a very hot day, almost 40 degrees and very tough cycling conditions up the mountains ​and through the bush, so it was essential that we had plenty of water to keep us hydrated throughout the day.  ​

“Everyone carried their own individual bottle on their bike and then my brothers and I were in charge of carrying extra water in back packs.

“The heat was harsh so we soon made a large dent into the water supply, not realising just how long we were going to be cycling for! It turned out that we were actually going on a very long ride which meant we were going to be out in the bush for eight hours!

“Rusty was leading the way, navigating us through thick bushland, up and down mountains and across rocky terrain. We stopped about two hours into the ride to have a little drink and a snack. When we stopped, Rusty asked where the water was. He wasn’t too impressed when we told him it was almost gone! It all went downhill from there!

“Tom snapped his chain, George kept getting punctures and I went flying ​over the handle bars whilst riding down a sharp descent, landing flat on my back!

“We still talk about that day and it always brings a smile to our faces even though it wasn’t too funny at the time!

​”Sam and I both know that the Empire State 500 is going to be a challenging task but that’s the reason we decided to take this on.”

To support the work of Rugby League Cares and Rob Burrow and his family, please sponsor Sam and Luke via their Justgiving page