Melbourne centre Will Chambers has defended skipper Cameron Smith for questioning Alex McKinnon’s action in a tackle that left the Newcastle forward with a fractured neck.
McKinnon suffered the injury in Monday night’s NRL match at AAMI Park when he landed on his head in a three-man tackle by Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich and Jordan McLean.
He was carried from the field and the tacklers were put on report by referee Gerard Sutton but Smith said the 22-year-old back-rower’s actions in the tackle contributed to the injury.
“I don’t want to see that happen to anyone in our game but, if he doesn’t duck his head, it doesn’t happen,” Smith told Sutton on the field.
Asked whether such comments were “insensitive in light of the injury”, Chambers said it was part of Smith’s role to talk with the referee during a match.
“No … that’s his part. He obviously saw something and had a chat,” said Chambers.
He said he couldn’t watch as McKinnon was put into a neck brace and stretchered from the field, with scans at a Melbourne hospital later confirming a fracture.
The full extent of injury won’t be known for at least a few days.
McKinnon could initially be heard via the referee’s microphone saying he couldn’t feel anything.
Chambers said it was tough to see any player suffer a serious injury in a tackle.
“I walked away last night when it happened because you hate to see people in that situation,” he said.
“You don’t want to look. It’s a scary thought, and I stayed away from it.”
Chambers, a member of the Storm’s leadership group, didn’t want to be drawn on any possible penalties from the match video review panel over the tackle.
“I haven’t spoken to them (the tacklers),” he said.
“Obviously you don’t go out to do those sort of things.
“It was an accident and we just hope that he recovers now and he’s back on the field soon.”
The Storm travel to Perth on Thursday ahead of their Saturday NRL clash with the Bulldogs.
It’s believed the three players involved in the tackle will speak with the club’s welfare officer, while the club said it would also work with the Knights and the NRL in offering support and assistance to McKinnon and his family.