HOME AGAIN: Alex McKinnon to makeemotional return to Hunter Stadium

IT shapes as the most emotional moment in the history of the Knights.
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Four months after the devastating tackle that broke his neck and ended his rugby league career, Alex McKinnon will return to Hunter Stadium for the first time when the Knights host Gold Coast on Sunday week.

McKinnon’s appearance was confirmed yesterday in a media release to promote ‘‘RiseForAlex’’ round, the NRL’s fund-raising weekend to provide support for the 22-year-old Aberdeen product. “Being at the game in round 19 is going to be a great occasion,” McKinnon said in a video statement.

“Newcastle has looked after me and the whole community has looked after me over the last few months. I am really looking forward to going to the game.

“With the community of the NRL, my family, Teigan, all my mates and everyone from Newcastle, it hasn’t been easy, but they have made it a lot easier and I would just like to say thank you.”

It is unclear whether McKinnon will appear on the pitch before the game, allowing Knights fans to pay their respects, or if he would prefer to just take his seat in the coach’s box, as he did when Newcastle played the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on April 26.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said any suchdecision would be left entirely to McKinnon, but he admitted it would be a moving experience for everyone if the former Country Origin forward did accept an invitation to acknowledge the crowd.

‘‘We don’t want to put too much on Alex,’’ Gidley said yesterday.

‘‘We’re not going to ask him to do anything he doesn’t feel comfortable about.

‘‘I’m sure everyone would love to see him, but we just have to see how he’s feeling and be guided by Alex … to see him in round 19, physically at the game, I’d imagine it would be pretty powerful.’’

The NRL has arranged a host of fund-raising initiatives to coincide with ‘‘RiseForAlex’’ round, which should provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for his ongoing care and support.

Some of the key measures announced include:

● The NRL will donate $1 to the RiseForAlex Fund for every spectator who attends any match during round 19.

● Fans can buy RiseForAlex wristbands at all matches across rounds 19 and 20.

● Fans can also make donations at www.riseforalex杭州后花园.au or by texting RiseForAlex to 0498 555 555.

● Channel Nine’s Footy Show will host a telethon, with help from with 150 Telstra volunteers and players from several clubs, during their broadcast on Thursday week.

‘‘We’d just encourage everyone to get along and show their support for Alex,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘As Newcastle always does, we rally together through tough times, and it’s been difficult for Alex.

‘‘I’m certainly hopeful we’ll get some great support for Alex on Sunday week when we play the Titans.’’

UNITED: Maroons captain Cameron Smith and Blues skipper Paul Gallen at yesterday’s official launch of the RiseForAlex campaign in Brisbane.

State of Origin captains Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith joined forces yesterday to promote ‘‘RiseForAlex’’ round.

“We have put our rivalries aside for a short time today to come together for a cause that is at the heart of every player in the game,” NSW skipper Gallen said.

Queensland captain Smith said McKinnon had shown ‘‘incredible courage and positivity’’ and urged fans to ‘‘applaud Alex’s strength by digging deep and supporting the ‘RiseFor Alex’ round.’’

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said McKinnon’s ‘‘positive attitude and contagious smile’’ had made him ‘‘a true role model for everyone in the game’’.

“The rugby league community support one another in times of need and we are calling on fans to come together for Alex McKinnon,” he said.

The ‘‘RiseForAlex Fund’’, which is independently managed by a board of directors, is aiming to provide McKinnon with accessible housing, a vehicle, a wheelchair, physiotherapy and rehabilitation as well as ongoing medical assistance.

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