Storm 28 Knights 20

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The Gus and Webby show

Phil Gould and Andrew Webster discuss on Tuesday the Alex McKinnon tackle and reflect upon a similar injury suffered by Phil in his playing days.

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Newcastle's third straight loss took a back seat to concern over the health of Knights back-rower Alex McKinnon after Melbourne Storm won a see-sawing contest 28-20 at AAMI Park on Monday night.

The Newcastle Knights have confirmed Country Origin back-rower Alex McKinnon has suffered two fractured vertebrae in his neck but are unsure about the level of damage to his spinal cord.

Alex McKinnon falls awkwardly to the turf.

Alex McKinnon falls awkwardly to the turf. Photo: Fox Sports

Time
80.00
Team
MEL
Score
28
Team
NEW
Score
20
Melbourne versus Newcastle
View Match Statistics
Players Waqa, Proctor, Chambers, Tonumaipea, Smith Tries 5 Tries 3 Players Smith, Uate(2)
Players Smith 3/5 (60%) Conversions 3 Conversions 2 Players Roberts 1/1 (100%), Gidley 1/2 (50%)
Players Smith 1/1 (100%) Penalty goals 1 Penalty goals 2 Players Roberts 1/1 (100%), Gidley 1/1 (100%)
Players Field goals 0 Field goals 0 Players

McKinnon suffered the injury when he was driven head-first into the ground by three Melbourne forwards in the final seconds of the first half.

The 22-year-old forward was placed in a neck brace and taken from the field on a stretcher, then was taken by ambulance to the Alfred Hospital for X-rays.

In a statement issued on Tuesday morning, the Knights said: "Scan results for Alex McKinnon confirm a fracture at C4 and C5. His spinal cord is not severed but the doctors are unsure about the level of spinal cord compromise.

Alex McKinnon is lifted into the turf by three Storm players.

Alex McKinnon is lifted into the turf by three Storm players. Photo: Fox Sports

"It will be a number of days or weeks until the extent of his injury is known.

"Alex's family have now arrived in Melbourne and are with him, along with club doctor Peter McGeoch and club officials.

"When there is additional information, an update will be provided.

Joey Leilua of the Knights fends Mahe Fonua of the Storm.

Joey Leilua of the Knights fends Mahe Fonua of the Storm. Photo: Getty Images

"We ask that any reporting of this delicate matter be handled with respect to Alex and his family."

Three Storm forwards Kenny and Jesse Bromwich pluse Jordan McLean were all reported for a dangerous tackle and will face further scrutiny from the NRL match review committee.

The crowd fell silent and the game was stopped for more than five minutes as McKinnon, who tucked his head towards his chest just as he was tackled, lay on the ground, was treated, and placed on the stretcher.

Kevin Proctor of the Storm steps into traffic.

Kevin Proctor of the Storm steps into traffic. Photo: Getty Images

Initial reports from the Newcastle dressing-room that he had some movement in his arms, although Knights coach Wayne Bennett was reluctant to discuss McKinnon's condition at the time.

Captain Kurt Gidley, who was on the bench at the time, said the Newcastle players were all worried about their team-mate.

"It's always pretty concerning when one of your team-mates stays down like that, then obviously stretchered off," Gidley said.

Alex McKinnon of the Knights is carried off an a stretcher.

Alex McKinnon of the Knights is carried off an a stretcher. Photo: Getty Images

"It didn't look good, obviously with his head hitting the ground first, so hopefully he's all right.

"He's a really good fella Alex, and a really good team-mate of ours."

Gidley said half-time gave the Knights a chance to regroup after McKinnon left the field.

"You have to move on pretty quick from things like that," Gidley said.

"It was just before half-time and we had to come in and reassess the game anyway, so I think we moved on from there."

Bennett said the first question every player asked as they entered the dressing-room after the game was about McKinnon's welfare, not the result.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy was more concerned about McKinnon's health than the possibility any of his players could face judiciary charges for their involvement in the tackle.

"Obviously no-one likes to see anyone get injured and carried off like that, and we just hope that Alex is OK," Bellamy said.

"At the end of the day, I don't think there was any malice in it at all, but having said that, we're more concerned for how Alex is more so than what they're going to do with the tackle."

McKinnon could initially be heard via the referees microphones saying he couldn't feel anything.

Speaking on radio Triple M, Storm captain Cameron Smith said: "It's a pretty bad incident. You don't want to see anyone with a neck injury in our game. The boys obviously lifted him in the air. I thought Alex probably ducked his head as he was going to the ground.

"It looked like he was going to land flat on his chest but he ducked his head late. On behalf of the Melbourne Storm, we wish him all the very best. We hope it's not a serious injury and we hope it's not too long before he's back on the paddock."

It was Newcastle's third successive defeat this season and sets up a game against Cronulla, the NRL's only other winless team, at Hunter Stadium next Sunday.

In winning their third on the trot, the Storm climbed to second spot and went some way towards avenging their 18-16 loss to Newcastle in last year's finals.

The sombre mood concerning McKinnon took the sheen off an otherwise entertaining contest in which the Knights were competitive and committed but, ultimately, outclassed and outsmarted by Storm generals Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.

Gidley waged a running battle with referees Gerard Sutton and Gavin Morris, who awarded the penalties to Melbourne 15-7.

Bennett did not dispute the lopsided penalty count and said that was the difference between the teams, declaring the Knights "beat themselves".

"Fifteen penalties, multiple repeat sets on their try-line, which they defended great but at the end of the day, they're a quality footy team they're playing and you're not going to hold them out long enough," Bennett said.

"... It was just too much to absorb in the end. I take a lot of heart out of what we're doing but I just want us to get smarter.

"Our penalties were just ridiculous. Tonight they were just things you can avoid doing."

Storm skipper Cameron Smith gave his side a 2-0 lead in the fourth minute after the Knights conceded three penalties in the first three minutes.

Newcastle went six minutes before their first attacking set, starting from good field position after Melbourne back-rower Ryan Hoffman was called off-side on a kick chase, and against the run of play posted the first try a minute later.

Five-eighth Michael Dobson put back-rower Beau Scott into the clear then from the next play, Dobson trickled a grubber kick into the right-hand goalpost and Jeremy Smith gathered up the rebounded ball to plant the ball behind the post.

Gidley's conversion made it 6-2, sparking the Knights to life after they were starved of possession in the early going.

Newcastle had a chance to extend their lead in the 12th minute but winger James McManus juggled and ultimately spilled Joey Leilua's deft pass into the in-goal area.

Storm prop Jordan McLean went close to levelling the scores three minutes later but lost the ball as he lunged for the line.

Gidley's penalty goal extended Newcastle's lead to 8-2 in the 19th minute after Melbourne prop Jesse Bromwich was cautioned for a lifting tackle on Robbie Rochow.

Just as the Knights appeared to be gaining the upper hand, the Storm regained momentum when Leilua lost the ball in a tackle, Mahe Fonua shovelled the scraps to Sisa Waqa, and the flying Fijian streaked away on a 55-metre gallop, beating Gidley, Rochow and Tyrone Roberts before touching down.

Gidley complained that Proctor stripped the ball in the tackle but referees Gerard Sutton and Gavin Morris dismissed his protests.

It was a sign of things to come as the Storm increased the tempo and the Knights, growing increasingly frustrated, conceded a string of penalties to try to stem the flow.

Left winger Young Tonumaipea burst into the clear in the 26th minute to force the Knights into their own territory, and after three straight sets Cooper Cronk delivered a sweetly timed flat pass for Proctor to score.

Smith converted for a 14-8 lead but could not add the extras after Cronk and Billy Slater combined to send Will Chambers over to score in the 33rd minute, leaving the Storm with an 18-8 advantage and threatening to run away with the contest.

Roberts kicked a penalty goal after McKinnon left the field to cut the deficit to 18-10 at half-time.

Melbourne kicked away to lead 24-10 four minutes into the second half when Tonumaipea flew above Aku Uate to catch Cronk's chip kick and touch down in the corner, then Smith converted from the sideline.

Newcastle continued to find themselves off-side with the officials, conceding three penalties on their own line, but refused to buckle and hit back with two tries by Uate in the 51st and 61st minutes to trim the margin to 24-20.

Uate caught a Roberts chip kick to find space outside Tonumaipea and score, then 10 minutes later he took a Dane Gagai flick pass after Dobson created space with a cut-out pass.

Further penalties against Dobson for face-raking and Leilua for a high tackle gave the Storm prime field position and Smith darted over from dumy-half to score in the 67th minute, stretching the lead to 28-20, but his conversion attempt hit the posts.

Meanwhile, centre Sione Mata'utia scored a hat-trick of tries as the Knights monstered Melbourne 50-0 in the National Youth Cup game.

with Steve Mascord