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The NRL today unveiled plans for a “job for life” for injured Newcastle player Alex McKinnon.
And a special Foundation will be set up to raise funds for Alex, starting with a “Rise for Alex” round of the Telstra Premiership from 18 July, which promises to be one of the biggest rounds the NRL has ever seen.
NRL CEO, Mr Dave Smith, said the NRL and the Newcastle Knights were determined to stick by Alex and that commitment included a job in the game for as long as Alex wishes.
Mr Smith said setting a career path for Alex was part of a package of measures to provide him with financial and career assistance over the long term.
“The best sight of the season was Alex turning up to ANZ Stadium to watch his mates play for the Knights last weekend,” Mr Smith said.
“His spirit and determination are an inspiration for all of us.
“The NRL would be honoured if Alex wanted to channel that spirit into a career in our game and the offer is on the table … for life.”
The NRL will work with the Knights, the Rugby League Players Association, the Men of League and other members of the League family to find a job which Alex is keen to pursue.
Mr Smith also announced that:
• A Foundation will be set up to raise funds for Alex to help him through his recovery.
• There will be a “Rise for Alex” round of the Telstra Premiership (Round 19 which begins on 18 July).
• It promises to be one of the biggest rounds the NRL has ever seen with a range of family activities and promotions to raise funds for Alex’s Foundation.
• The fundraising round has the backing of the NRL’s broadcast partners -Nine Network, FOX Sports, 2GB and Triple M.
• The NRL will dedicate funds to a research project associated with spinal injury.
Mr Smith said the NRL would work with the Newcastle Knights, other clubs and our broadcast partners on the “Rise for Alex” round events in July over the coming weeks.
Options include holding two concerts (one in Sydney and the other in Newcastle), games and activities for families at selected matches, junior football fund raising activities and auctions. It is also possible that a telethon would be held to raise funds.
Nine Network’s CEO, Mr David Gyngell, said opportunities would be looked for across the network, including a special broadcast of The Footy Show dedicated to supporting the fundraising initiative.
“We are 100 per cent behind Alex and we will work with the NRL and the Newcastle Knights to make Round 19 the biggest and most exciting round this season to help drive fundraising,” Mr Gyngell said.
“The Nine Network match between the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium will be a showcase match that weekend and I know the game has big plans.”
FOX Sports CEO, Mr Patrick Delany, said: “We have five live games across the weekend where we will dedicate support for the game’s fundraising initiatives, especially the Knights v Titans match at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, which I know will be an emotional day for Alex, the Newcastle Knights and all of their fans”.
Mr Smith said the NRL was also looking at establishing a game-wide Foundation to provide financial assistance to players who are severely and permanently injured in Rugby League.
“It is clear, on those rare occasions when there is a serious injury in our game, that the fans and supporters want to do their bit to help out,” he said.
“We want to explore all avenues to do this and it all starts with Alex.”
Mr Smith said the game-wide Foundation will be established over the coming months to ensure it meets all requirements for a registered charity. The Foundation is expected to be administered by Men of League.
The news comes as the Newcastle Knights also announced they have extended McKinnon's contract past 31 October this year - a move which was in discussions when he was injured in Round 3.