BY CURTIS WOODWARD
The day we all knew was coming has finally arrived. Mark it down, the 19th of December 2016, the day reports surfaced Alex McKinnon would sue the National Rugby League.
According to News Corp, McKinnon’s lawyers sent a letter to the NRL last week informing them of the lawsuit that left the Newcastle Knights forward paralysed after a tackle gone wrong in a match against the Storm at AAMI Park in 2014.
It’s also understood McKinnon told NRL CEO Todd Greenberg of the suit at a meeting six weeks ago.
Since the injury, McKinnon has received over a million dollars in fundraising, been paid full available compensation while the Knights also paid out his contract in full and kept him on at the club in other capacities. McKinnon has spoken at length before about the fact that his ongoing recovery and the costs involved will continue to balloon. There is no doubt McKinnon should be helped pay these costs. Where will McKinnon be in 2036? What kind of struggles will he have then?
“I had no idea how much this injury was going to cost,” he told the Nine Network in July 2015.
“I didn’t know until two weeks ago it cost $100,000 for me to get out of bed in the morning.
“I just need to know how much it is going to cost me, how much money I have and where I (am) going to get that money from.”
But then came the other part of the report. The part that has immediately shifted the plates of support in rugby league land.
Apparently McKinnon will pursue Melbourne Storm prop Jordan McLean with a personal lawsuit for his part in the tackle.
Chasing the NRL to help pay costs is one thing. Suing McLean is another.
“I know a lot of people felt sorry for him [Jordan], but it was the one thing he didn’t want [after the McKinnon tackle],” Jordan’s mother Julie told Fairfax in October.
It is WRONG for Alex McKinnon to sue Jordan McLean.
Tackle was a tragic accident.
— The Mole (@9_Moley) December 18, 2016
NRL won't be paying McKinnon's compo, their insurance will. Personally going after Jordan McLean on the other hand….
— Bek (@Redandblack91) December 18, 2016
I understand that Alex McKinnon has to live like this for the rest of his life but to be suing Jordan McLean is SO wrong.
— RF20 (@_darciejade) December 18, 2016
“He never wanted people feeling sorry for him. That’s the sort of kid he is. I was watching the game and I could see the moment his face changed when he realised there was something wrong.
“I wanted him to know that I knew it wasn’t his fault; that it was an accident. He’s pretty quiet, he’s pretty reserved, so it was just a matter of letting him know that I was there for him.”
Any player could have easily been in McLean’s shoes that night, even McKinnon. Any player, from any club, could have been that player and anyone could have been McKinnon. It was a devastating accident that has changed lives, most notably McKinnon’s. It’s sad. It really is. But McLean should not be sued for this.
Months earlier, at the same venue in a 2013 finals match, McKinnon led with the shoulder and knocked McLean out cold after their head’s collided. How would McKinnon feel if McLean was left with brain damage and McKinnon was sued?
This was just as much an accident as what happened in 2014. Even then, McLean copped a seven-week suspension, regret for all eternity and what will be a lifetime of whispers and snickering from passers-by on the street.
The tackle itself has almost been forgotten in all of this. For argument’s sake, let’s say McKinnon gets up and walks away. McLean is put on report and it’s confirmed he has a case to answer. The Storm argue, quite rightfully, that McKinnon ducks his head into the grass. They also argue that the momentum of the tackle is compounded by the weight over the top of Jesse and Kenny Bromwich. McLean would have got a few weeks at most.
Accidents happen. Sad, terrible accidents happen. This is one of them.
Since the report broke on Monday morning, the spectrum of sympathy has moved.
McLean is about as guilty of hurting McKinnon as fast bowler Sean Abbott was to the death of Phil Hughes.
“It does do damage to the game of rugby league because in my mind there wasn’t a real intent from Jordan McLean,” RLPA’s Clint Newton told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.
“It’s a dangerous sport and it’s a little bit like the Phillip Hughes incident — it’s one of those freakish accidents that can happen.”
Most wouldn’t be dirty on McKinnon for chasing monies he may need down the track.
But you can understand the public backlash for suing a bloke that was in the wrong place at the wrong time – just like Alex was.