Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett says the Knights will give stricken back-rower Alex McKinnon all the help he needs to recover from the broken neck he sustained against Melbourne on Monday.
McKinnon is in a Melbourne hospital waiting to find out if there will be any long-term damage from the fractured C4 and C5 vertebrae in his neck and the veteran coach admitted the incident has hit everyone at the club hard.
“I was at the hospital this morning when his parents arrived,” Bennett said.
“It’s sad and extremely disappointing for him. There is not much we can do about it.
“He is getting the best care now and we are giving him all the support we can possibly give him. After that we just have to hope for the best.
“It’s tough on all of us. This kind of thing doesn’t happen.”
The veteran coach, who took McKinnon with him to Newcastle from St George Illawarra when he moved to the Knights in 2012, admitted he was struggling to get his head around what had happened to the 22-year-old.
“It really does bugger your mind up,” he said.
“He is an outstanding young man. He will captain the club here one day.”
The incident shocked the NRL community with players from various club taking to social media on Tuesday to express their best wishes towards the 22-year-old NSW Country Origin representative.
Storm prop Jordan McLean’s lifting tackle which led to McKinnon’s injury was referred straight to a judiciary hearing which has been deferred.
The match review panel on Tuesday announced McLean had been charged with a dangerous throw for his part in a three-man tackle alongside teammates Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and it would go to a hearing because of the serious injury arising from it.
“Our immediate priority is to throw our support behind Alex and his family and to hope for a full recovery,” said NRL head of football Todd Greenberg.
“A date will be determined for Jordan’s hearing after we consult with the Melbourne and Newcastle clubs.
“It is undoubtedly a distressing time for Jordan as well but the NRL has to apply the rules and determine whether a breach has occurred.
“The match review committee believes it’s in the best interests of all for the hearing to be held in the judiciary forum where all the information can be presented openly and transparently.
“But, out of respect for Alex and his family, that hearing should not be held at this time.”
Brisbane representative back-rower Sam Thaiday admitted the injury should give food for thought to coaches and players about how they go about tackling given the new rule changes that have been put in place this season.
“I am unsure whether he will be back playing football but I hope he’s healthy and well enough to go on and do what he wants with his life,” Thaiday said.
“It does make you step back a little bit and look at what you are doing week in, week out.
“It’s very hard to control (lifting tackles) but I don’t think anyone is to blame.
“Rules change every year so teams are trying to figure out ways to get players on the ground and try to slow the game down because the game is being played at a blistering pace right now.
“We just have to be more careful how we do that.”