The players’ union has defended Alex McKinnon’s right to sue over the tackle which left him paralysed and called on the NRL to provide greater cover for players who suffer catastrophic injuries.
McKinnon is preparing to launch legal proceedings against the NRL and Melbourne forward Jordan McLean over the 2014 tackle which left him wheelchair bound.
An NRL spokesman said while no claim had been received, McKinnon’s lawyers had notified them of their intentions.
The 24-year-old former Newcastle second-rower’s career ended after a three-man tackle involving McLean, who was suspended for seven weeks, and Jesse and Kenny Bromwich.
Rugby League Players Association chief executive Ian Prendergast said McKinnon’s injury had been life-altering and people should consider his position before judging him.
“We all need to respect the situation Alex is in, no one can understand what he’s going through,” he said.
“He’s got independent legal representation, he’s entitled to pursue his legal rights and it’s important to let that play out without pre-judging the outcome.”
Prendergast said the players’ union had also reached out to McLean and offered him their support.
Following his retirement, McKinnon received the maximum $500,000 compensation payout from the NRL and around $1.2 million through fundraising efforts including the Rise for Alex round.
He was also paid out the final two years of his contract, estimated to be around $500,000, from the Knights.
He was also guaranteed a job for life by the NRL and works with the club in recruitment and development.
However he estimated it will cost him $20 million to lead a normal existence for the rest of his life and has spoken about his fears of being unable to support himself.
“I had no idea how much this injury was going to cost,” he told the Nine Network in July last year.
“I didn’t know until two weeks ago it cost $100,000 for me to get out of bed in the morning.
“I just need to know how much it is going to cost me, how much money I have and where I (am) going to get that money from.”
In July last year, the NRL launched its whole of game foundation which offers additional support, outside insurance schemes, to players who suffer catastrophic injuries such as spinal problems or brain damage.
The RLPA also put a separate insurance scheme in place for players whose career is cut short by injuries with the costs shared between the NRL, clubs and players.
Prendergast said more needed to be done to protect players given the often physical and brutal nature of the game and hoped to have that included in the collective bargaining agreement which is currently being negotiated and set to come into force in 2018.
“Some of the things that have improved since Alex’s injury include compensation but more needs to be done in that space,” Prendergast said.
“If you think about rugby league, it was born out of players seeking to protect their rights to injuries that were suffering. From the player’s association perspective, there’s still work that needs to be done.”