Despite NSW’s historic and heroic Origin series victory, and the NRL season’s plethora of on-field highlights, and regardless of how many players cover themselves in finals glory or who wins the Grand Final in one of the great premiership races, the enduring highlight of the 2014 season will be the courage shown by Alex McKinnon and the way the Rugby League community rallied around him.
The fundraising efforts during the magnificent ‘Rise for Alex’ round will not only assist the injured Newcastle forward’s rehabilitation, it will also ensure those similarly affected while playing Rugby League will be taken care of in the future.
We have already seen a flow-on affect, with West Tigers and the NRL belatedly helping out Simon Dwyer with a fundraising dinner and a tribute at this Monday’s game against Melbourne. Tigers backrower Dwyer suffered an injury, that has severely limited the use of his arm, in a 2011 match when he was just 22.
While the Knights were unable to honour Alex with a victory, instead going down to the Gold Coast in a lacklustre 22-8 defeat, the pre-match ‘Rise for Alex’ tribute at Hunter Stadium in Round 19 was one of the most stirring and emotional occasions in the history of Australian sports.
The packed crowd cheered for Alex, who took the field with the Knights and Titans in his wheelchair, and there was barely a dry eye in the house – or in lounge rooms watching on TV – as the inspirational 22-year-old was overcome by emotion.
Relive the moving scenes below, and feel proud to be a Rugby League supporter:
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