Alex: 'No point in me being angry'
Alex McKinnon has come a long way in a small amount of time.
Even though he was able to wheel himself out in his power-assisted chair to talk to the media on Monday and was able to display hand movement, McKinnon noted that he doesn't see himself as an inspiration to others, despite the improvements in his condition only a few short months after suffering his serious spinal injury.
While all fans no doubt view McKinnon as a remarkable individual, with the RiseForAlex Round scheduled this weekend to help raise funds to aid his ongoing recovery, the 22-year-old is quick to deflect such suggestions.
"If anyone is inspirational it is the people around me that have helped," McKinnon said.
"I'm a family-oriented person so it's been tough being away from them. They have helped a lot over the last few months... and it's been really overwhelming to tell you the truth.
"It's hard to get into the nitty-gritty of everything but I'm slowly improving and I'm determined to keep on improving and be around the people I love.
"Obviously being thrown into a situation like this you don't know how to handle it but the people around me and their help has really motivated me to get back to the person that I am."
While he remembers the whole incident and has seen the tackle "once or twice", McKinnon doesn't blame rugby league in what could only be described as a freak accident.
"There is no point of me being angry. You'd think I'd be filthy on the world and filthy on the game but I'm not. You may as well be content with the situation," McKinnon said.
"Rugby league is still the same sport. What rugby league has done for myself and my life is ridiculous and I wouldn't be the person I am today without it. I wouldn't have met Wayne [Bennett] and I wouldn't have met some of my best mates. I wouldn't change it for anything. People ask if rugby league is safe? Of course it is safe."
With the Knights set to face the Gold Coast Titans in RiseForAlex Round this weekend, McKinnon is keen to get back to Newcastle for the first time since the incident though he's not sure how he will deal with what is expected to be close to a full house at Hunter Stadium.
"I don't know what to expect to tell you the truth. I don't know how I'm going to handle the [weekend]... it's going to be pretty emotional and until I'm in the situation I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with it," McKinnon said.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to Newcastle though. I was saying to Teigan [McKinnon's fiancé] the other night that I just want to go back to my house, and even if I can't go inside, I just want to be able to sit out the front. It will be a good couple of days for me where I can just relax."
Veteran Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett had nothing but praise for McKinnon in what has been a difficult time for everyone involved, including himself.
"He was very, very valuable before he was injured and he's more valued now because we all feel his pain. He's a pretty outstanding young man and he's become even more outstanding in my eyes since the accident because he's made sure it has been easier for all of us," Bennett said.
"Despite all the pain and all the grief and all that is in front of him, he is more concerned about us and how we feel and when we come to see him he's always putting on a brave face. I think it's remarkable the way he has carried himself."
Channel Nine’s The Footy Show will host a telethon for Alex during their broadcast on July 17, with the call centre open from 8:30pm AEST.The number will be available soon.
Telstra will host the call centre, with 150 Telstra volunteers and players from several clubs who will be assisting with answering calls during the night.
Fans can also make donations online at www.riseforalex.org.au or by texting RiseForAlex to 0498 555 555.