The NRL has made a significant move to care for players who suffer catastrophic injuries playing rugby league, but appears resigned to the increasing likelihood that Alex McKinnon will take legal action against the game’s governing body over his career-ending tackle.
The NRL launched its Whole of Game foundation on Wednesday aimed at providing immediate support to seriously injured players, 16 months after McKinnon suffered his spinal injury in Melbourne last year.
Head of football Todd Greenberg said the NRL remains in regular contact with McKinnon, who last week indicated for the first time he was considering taking legal action against the game’s peak body.
“I don’t know what the situation is other than to say we have been right behind Alex from day one,” Greenberg told AAP.
“We are in constant communication with him, obviously he has his own rights and we respect that but we will always support Alex.”
The Whole of Game Foundation does not cover McKinnon, but Greenberg said it a was a key initiative for the future. The move comes after Sunshine Coast Falcons player James Ackerman died last month from an injury sustained in a Queensland Cup fixture.
“It is not retrospective the foundation,” he said.
“You have to understand the game has been around for 100 year and it has never had this foundation.
“For the first time in history we are putting something in place and we are designing it to help us for the next 100 years so it is a long term play to ensure that we are giving back to players.”
The foundation was launched in conjunction with this weekend’s Men of League Heritage Round, during which the NRL will contribute $1 from every ticket sold to support the foundation and the RiseForAlex Fund.
NRL boss Dave Smith said that the fund would continue to grow.
“The foundation will continue to build so it can provide assistance to those few players who suffer catastrophic injuries in our game,” he said.
This week is particularly important because, not only are we continuing to show our support for Alex McKinnon but we are putting in place a support system for players who suffer catastrophic injuries in the future.”
The foundation will provide support to players at all levels who are catastrophically injured while training or playing organised rugby league.