It’s been a horrible past couple of weeks in rugby league.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried not to be overly gloomy. Unfortunately in this instance it’s tough to be anything else.
Collectively, as a game, we are dealing with – and will continue to deal with – the fall-out of what in the opinion of many independent experts was an awful accident.
We know that, in sport, inherent risk exists. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean it makes it easier to deal with injury when it occurs. Everyone at the Melbourne Storm wishes Alex McKinnon a full recovery. Our thoughts and prayers for him and his family join those of others’ around the country.
Their road ahead is going to be a difficult one and, as a Club, we have expressed an ongoing desire to provide assistance where and when it is considered appropriate.
Likewise, everyone at the Storm is gathering around young Jordan McLean, a respectful, humble young man, who has always had a genuine affection and care for his teammates and family. We’ve developed and implemented a plan that will hopefully help Jordan with the mental battle ahead. At the moment, we see it as important that he stays in Melbourne, surrounding by teammates who’ve been outstanding at supporting him in a very private and respectful way.
Jordan is only 22 and grew up in Young in country New South Wales. He has no family in Melbourne so his teammates and our support staff at Storm are very diligent in playing that role.
It’s important that he’s close to them at the moment.
He’s a typical country boy, Jordan. For a long time we’ve seen him as our gentle giant.
He loves his golf and his fishing – often heading down the Great Ocean Road with some friends, where they hunt for Tuna.
Their catch is usually plentiful so it’s his teammates who benefit.
Only last month, following a successful trip, he brought back enough fish to feed a small army, or in this case a football team.
Unfortunately, the cleaners didn’t quite realise that, what they were removing from the fridge in the AAMI Park change rooms, was a bag full of fresh fish.
The smell arising from the bin after a weekend of no games at the stadium was as bad as you could imagine.
Like most forwards… Actually, like most Australian men in general, Jordan doesn’t like to show his feelings or emotions. He’s always been guarded, always one of the more difficult players to read, even after five years in our system, where he’s already experienced the high of an Under-20’s title and the lows of three years of battling some recurring hamstring injuries.
So why am I telling you this?
After the emotion of the past two weeks, I think it’s important to keep in mind, as our CEO Mark Evans said immediately following the judiciary, that there are no winners in this. There was never going to be and there never will be.
It’s been a horrible time because of an awful accident that will have lasting consequences for any number of people and we understand that while we at the Storm have a tough job ahead helping Jordan back to normality, the Knights and Alex and his family have a much, much more difficult role to play in helping Alex in his recovery.
The support of the entire rugby league community is needed – and it needs to be ongoing.
It’s been a horrible experience for all but also a draining one because of the genuine concern for Alex McKinnon and his family.
And, while it needs to be kept in perspective, the feelings can filter through to the players and their performance on-field.
For the Knights, they lifted last weekend, with an inspired and outstanding performance for their injured mate. Unfortunately, for us, we took our eyes off the football last weekend, and we need to bounce back tomorrow against Gold Coast.