Melbourne have defended Cameron Smith after Alex McKinnon described as “disgusting” the Storm captain’s on-field comments about the incident that ended his NRL career.
Former Newcastle forward McKinnon suffered a severe spinal injury after landing head first in a three-man tackle when playing against Melbourne in March last year.
Speaking to Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes program, which airs on Sunday night, McKinnon has described Smith’s on-field actions after the tackle as “f***ing ridiculous”.
He believed comments Smith made on the field at the time implied that he was somewhat to blame for the injury.
“If he doesn’t duck his head, that doesn’t happen,” Smith was heard telling referees.
McKinnon said he was still angry with Smith and said he had not heard from him since the incident.
Melbourne on Sunday released a statement saying Smith had no idea of the extent of McKinnon’s injury when on the field and had attempted to contact the injured player several times afterwards.
The Storm also pointed out that Smith had helped launch the Rise for Alex fundraising NRL round last year and that Melbourne had raised $20,000 for McKinnon on that match day alone.
Smith refused to comment at Queensland training on the Gold Coast on Sunday ahead of Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider in Brisbane.
“At the time of this tragic accident, no one on the field had any idea of the severity of the injury Alex had suffered,” the Storm statement said.
“All at Storm and especially the playing group were shocked and horrified to learn of Alex’s injuries in the days after the event.
“Storm players led by captain Cameron Smith requested to visit Alex in hospital numerous times while he was in Melbourne.
“The requests were declined, which was totally understandable given Alex needed to focus on the initial stages of his recovery.
“Storm’s football director continued to liaise with his Newcastle equivalent regarding the right time for club players to contact Alex in the weeks and months after the incident.”
Storm said Smith tried to support McKinnon by launching the Rise for Alex campaign with NSW counterpart Paul Gallen last year.
“Cameron Smith was proud to launch the #riseforalex round last year alongside Paul Gallen, as well as to wear Alex’s jersey number at Storm’s game in Melbourne in the same round,” it said.
“Storm’s fans raised more than $20,000 for Alex that day alone.”