(EDS: Warning language in the 3rd par)
SYDNEY, July 6 AAP – Newcastle coach Rick Stone has come to the defence of Cameron Smith over his handling of the Alex McKinnon tackle, describing him as a “decent fella”.
The Melbourne and Queensland captain was blasted by McKinnon during a television interview on the Nine Network’s flagship news and current affairs program 60 Minutes for arguing with the referee as the Newcastle forward was taken from the field with a serious neck injury last year.
The tackle left McKinnon in a wheelchair and he said it was “f***ing ridiculous” that Smith made the point with the on-field officials that the Newcastle forward had contributed to his own injury.
McKinnon was also angry that Smith had failed to contact him since the accident in March last year while McKinnon’s father Scott described the Australian skipper’s actions as unforgivable.
Stone, who was assistant coach of the Knights at the time, told the Newcastle Herald that Smith was a good person and predicted he would have acted differently had he known the extent of McKinnon’s injury.
“I’ve known Cameron since he was 19,” Stone said.
“He’s the Australian captain, he’s got a lot of credibility in our game.
“I can understand Alex and his family being angry about the situation.
“If Cameron had his time again, he might have done a few things differently and maybe Alex might do the same. But it’s a really tough scenario.
“I think deep down everyone in the game knows Cameron’s a pretty decent fella.
“Alex is a champion bloke, as we know, and he’s a little bit frustrated and angry at the moment, and he should be.
“I didn’t take particular notice of the footage but maybe if Cam had his time again he might have shown a bit more respect if he understood the circumstances.”