The National Rugby League have demonstrated the utmost professionalism with the way they’ve handled the sensitive issue of Alex McKinnon’s health. Delaying the judicial process shows total respect for the situation Alex faces in not only the coming days and weeks, but recovery over the next few years. I am sure Melbourne Storm player Jordan McLean is feeling horrible about the events as well. While everyone has a viewpoint on what should happen to the Storm utility, our thoughts are first and foremost with McKinnon, his family and the Knights.
McKinnon fractured the C4 and C5 vertebrae in his spine on Monday night as the Storm and Knights played at AAMI Park in Melbourne and was immediately taken to hospital for emergency surgery. He has since regained movement in his right arm but the Knights have confirmed his career is over and he faces a rehab period of up to two years.It is a tragic way for his career to end, after it started out so brightly.
The Aberdeen Tigers junior made his NRL debut for the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2011 as a centre and was touted as one of the best young players at the club. He starred in his first grade debut, scoring two tries against the Gold Coast Titans in round 14 before the lure of returning home to the Newcastle area and playing under supercoach Wayne Bennett saw McKinnon sign a three-year deal with the Knights, where he went on to play 46 games between 2012-2014, scoring 4 tries. He also played for NSW Country in 2013.
Such is the brutal nature of Rugby League, that injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, but no one ever wants to see injuries of this magnitude. Sadly there have been a number of players in recent seasons who have had their careers cut short such as Wests Tigers duo Taniela Tuiaki and Simon Dwyer.
Only recently Manly-Warrringah Sea Eagles hard man Richie Fa’aso had to retire after breaking his neck during the 2013 final series. Going even further back popular Dragons Hooker Nathan Brown was forced into premature retirement after his neck collided with Dragons prop Chris Leikvoll in a trial match in 2001. Despite the setback, Brown has gone onto become a very successful coach both in Australia and in England. Alex McKinnon still has a future in rugby league, maybe not on the field, but certainly off it, and I wish him all the best for the future.