Melbourne CEO Dave Donaghy is certain captain Cameron Smith will want to reach out to Alex McKinnon, who has reportedly criticised on-field comments made after his serious spinal injury.
The Storm boss also says he’s surprised that Test and Queensland skipper Smith – in camp with the Maroons for the State of Origin series decider – became the focus ahead of a television program on McKinnon and his injury to be aired on Sunday evening.
Melbourne issued a statement defending Smith after a report that Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes program includes McKinnon describing on-field comments made by Smith after his injury as “disgusting.”
Former Newcastle forward McKinnon landed head first when a three-man tackle on him went horribly wrong while playing against Melbourne in March last year.
“If he doesn’t duck his head, that doesn’t happen,” Smith was heard telling referees.
In the program News Corp reports McKinnon watches a replay of the match and describes Smith’s arguing with the referee after the tackle as “f***ing ridiculous” and also says he hasn’t heard from Smith since.
Smith was not available for comment at the Queensland Origin squad’s media session on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Asked if Smith regretted his on-field comments, Donaghy told Triple M radio: “I’m sure in hindsight there’s a lot of things that were said that everyone would want to change.
“(But) it was a little bit surprising that just the take on that this morning and the timing of it.”
Donaghy spoke to Smith about the issue on Saturday night.
“I’ve got no doubt that Cameron today would be feeling pretty ordinary,” Donaghy said.
“I have no doubt that he would want to (try and contact McKinnon).
“Hopefully Alex is willing to receive the phone call as well.”
In their statement, the Storm said Smith and teammates made several attempts to speak with McKinnon in the aftermath of the injury.
“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.”
Former Queensland captain Darren Lockyer believed Smith would address the issue publicly after the program aired and that he needed to do so ahead of the State of Origin series decider in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
“I would assume he would respond to it sooner rather than later, so mentally he can get his head back into the game on Wednesday,” Lockyer told Channel Nine’s The Sunday Footy Show.
“He probably wants to know what was said, so he can respond.”