Alex McKinnon has today spoken about his recovery goals, love of Rugby League and the adoration he has for his family, friends and teammates and the support they have provided during the last four months.
Joining Alex at ANZ Stadium was Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett and teammates Willie Mason, Darius Boyd, Dane Gagai and Korbin Sims.
Alex spoke about his recovery to date and the excitement about returning home to Newcastle this weekend for the RiseForAlex round, to watch his beloved Knights take on the Gold Coast Titans at Hunter Stadium.
“I love being around my friends and I love being around the boys,” Alex said.
“I’m a very family orientated person and obviously being in hospital I am away from them a lot and it is one thing that I have really missed.
“The support from Wayne and the guys has been second to none.
“I am just trying to get back to how I was and if anyone is inspirational it is people around me, they have really helped me a lot and made it easier for me and I really thank them a lot.”
“It has really motivated me to get back to the person that I am and not lose sight of the goals I have set for myself.”
In a show of solidarity, all NRL clubs have chosen to support the RiseForAlex Fund in both Rounds 19 and 20, enabling the fans to make donations by purchasing a RiseForAlex wristband which will be sold at venues across this weekend and next.
This weekend’s centrepiece will be a celebration on Sunday, 20 July in Newcastle, hosted in Alex McKinnon’s honour at Hunter Stadium, with Alex as the special guest.
NRL Chief Executive Mr Dave Smith said the support for Alex has come from far and wide.
“The RiseForAlex Round is a great opportunity for the Rugby League community to show their support for one of their own players,” Mr Smith said.
“Fans and members of our game are renowned for their care and generosity and I know this weekend will hold special meaning for those who attend any game.
“Since its beginnings the Rugby League community has been built on trust, care and family values and this will be showcased during the RiseForAlex Round.”
Gates at Hunter Stadium will open at 11am and upon arrival members and fans will be entertained in a specially created RiseForAlex precinct showcasing live music, radio broadcasts and family friendly activities.
A celebration for Alex will take place in the stadium pre-match and during half time.
Family tickets for this weekend’s round of the NRL Telstra Premiership start from just $50, with junior passes accepted at most venues (excluding Eels and Rabbitohs at Pirtek).
Fans attending the Knights v Titans match are encouraged to arrive early.
Knights Coach Wayne Bennett also spoke at today’s press conference paying tribute to the support network around Alex.
“The support has been wonderful for him, but that is because of the person that he is,” Bennett said.
“He (Alex) was very valuable before he got injured, and he is more valued now, because we all feel his pain. All his teammates were there with him that night and I don’t think that will ever go away for any of us.
“I think it is remarkable, what he has done, and I think it is remarkable the way that he carries himself and the way he continues to be motivated and challenged at the same time.
“He’s not going to take any shortcuts doing that, he didn’t take any shortcuts as a player and as a young man growing up and he is not going to take any shortcuts now.”
The RiseForAlex Fund has been established to provide ongoing financial and medical support to the Newcastle Knights forward and is independently managed by a board of directors.
How you can Rise for Alex.
• The NRL will be donating one dollar to the RiseForAlex Fund for every Rugby League fan who attends any match during Round 19.
• Fans can make donations by purchasing a RiseForAlex wristband that will be sold at all matches across the RiseForAlex Round (Round 19 & 20).
• Fans can also make donations online at www.riseforalex.org.au or by texting RiseForAlex to 0498 555 555.
• The NRL Footy Show, along with Telstra, will open up the lines for donations with a call centre from 8.30pm AEST on July 17. Telephone: 1800 441 991.
150 Telstra volunteers and players from several clubs will answer calls during the night.
• The Daily Telegraph will donate one dollar from every newspaper sold on Saturday 19 July.
The NRL’s broadcast partners Fox Sports, 2GB and Triple M have also contributed support to the RiseForAlex round.