This week we have seen the great news coming from both the Newcastle Knights in regards to Alex McKinnon.
McKinnon suffered a horrible spinal injury when he fell awkwardly in an illegal spear tackle earlier this year. Initially there were fears he’d be a quadriplegic.
Since then he has shown insurmountable spirit and courage to try and get himself better. He can move his head and he is able to move both arms and hands. He even has some sensation in his legs.
Alex is a fighter and his recovery is remarkably inspiring. He has an entire community of Rugby League fans around the world wishing him the best.
This week the NRL announced that they would create a job for life for Alex if he requires it. The Newcastle Knights, who had been in contract negotiations with him earlier this year, signed him to a contract over 3 years. Intelligently too, the NRL waived this contract from the Knights salary cap.
Magnificent gestures all round by all involved.
Today, an article called Simon Dwyer the NRL’s dirty secret. Simon Dwyer was a very promising second rower for the Wests Tigers who was touted as a future Origin star, and rightfully so.
But an attempted tackle resulted in Dwyer receiving a spinal injury. While Dwyer can still walk and function reasonably well, he has next to no function in his right arm. The tone of the article was to emphasise that both Dwyer and McKinnon received spinal injuries, McKinnon rightfully received a lot of support while Dwyer, it was assumed, had received nothing.
While the assumption is unfair and mostly incorrect, for me it raises another issue, about player welfare. Each club has their own doctors and rehabilitation staff for their contracted players. But what happens when those players suffer career ending injuries? They retire and are barely heard of since.
And in most cases, they are not providing the services of their former clubs medical and rehabilitation services.
Now I’m going to go on a tangent here briefly. Yesterday the Liberal Government released its commission of audit, essentially a briefing outlining where money could be saved. In a number of cases this even suggested some departments could be closed down completely, leaving many highly skilled and qualified people without work.
As I looked through the list I saw one department and instantly thought of Simon.
Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services (or CRS) is a department that specialises in helping disabled (be it physically, mentally, or both) find sustainable work that doesn’t impact on their disability and ensures that they can produce a high standard of work and earn a good income (essentially reducing or removing the need of money they receive from welfare). It was initially set up to help returned servicemen from World War II.
If this department were to close, the NRL could make a very wise and intelligent move, possibly even the most significant and forward thinking concept of any professional sporting body in the world. They could hire a heap of these highly skilled people to work with players who suffered career ending injuries to help them find alternative work and to keep in touch with them to make sure they are coping well.
It would be essentially the game turning full circle and going back to its first reason of coming into existence, the welfare of the players.