Alex McKinnon falls awkwardly in the three-man Storm tackle.

Alex McKinnon falls awkwardly in the three-man Storm tackle.

Alex McKinnon lies in a bed in a Melbourne hospital in an induced coma and those at his bedside aren’t worried about whether he will play again, but if he will walk.

The NRL has exterminated the shoulder charge and toughened rules around concussion, but this is its worst nightmare.

Body blow: Warnie hits the canvas.

Body blow: Warnie hits the canvas.

Predictably, the mob wants blood.

Fingers of blame have thus far been pointed at: young Storm forward Jordan McLean, with some Knights supporters wanting him suspended for the season; at the Storm, who many believe introduced the dark art of wrestling to the game and this is the dire consequence; and the very game of rugby league, which should be abandoned because it is played by Soprano-like thugs.

The mob needs to put down the pitchforks and torches and realise what almost every coach and player in the game is saying, albeit very privately out of respect for McKinnon and his family – that this is a freak accident that happens very rarely in a tough sport.

Callan Ward of the Giants.

Callan Ward of the Giants. Photo: Getty Images

Those of you who have watched this incident over and over trying to make sense of it all must surely see that McKinnon’s sudden ducking of his head has contributed, if not caused, his injury.

If McKinnon gets up and plays the ball, are we talking about this tackle at all? At the very worst, McLean might’ve faced a grade-one dangerous throw charge. Might have.

Instead, he has the heaviest heart in the game right now.

Much has been made about the rule forbidding defenders from grabbing between the legs.

Watch the replay again and you will see McLean's other arm is wrapped around McKinnon’s legs as well, as he makes a standard tackle – not a “spear tackle”, as some have been irresponsibly labeling it.

The match review committee has referred McLean straight to the judiciary, and stood him down for a week. Thankfully, the NRL on Thursday agreed with the Storm's appeal and will allow him to take the field against the Bulldogs.

Clearly, the NRL acted as it did out of respect for McKinnon and his family, but in doing so it merely fuelled the scorn being thrown at McLean and the belief that someone has to pay.

This column contacted the NRL's head of football, Todd Greenberg, and media department seeking clarity about the decision, but they never phoned back.

When McLean does front the judiciary, let’s hope NRL judiciary counsel Peter Kite treads very carefully with his questioning, with replay after replay shown, in front of a room full of journalists, and in front of a panel of former players who will surely know how things can merely go wrong on the field.

Because that’s the harsh reality and risk of playing rugby league.

In last year’s semi-final, as Melbourne and the Knights played at AAMI Park, McLean suffered a broken jaw from an accidental head clash.

With Alex McKinnon.

Knights of the round table discussion

The seriousness of McKinnon’s injury was coming to light on the day Nathan Tinkler’s ownership of the Knights reached an important crossroads.

A new ownership model, in which Hunter Sports Group shares the club with its members, has been floated.

“HSG has been in fruitful discussion with the NRL over a period of time to identify a unified business model to ensure the long-term future of the Knights,” the club said in a statement on Wednesday night.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley told the Big Sports Breakfast on Thursday morning that it would be good to still have the former billionaire “involved”.

It’s a significant departure from the stance last week that everything was fine.

After this column earlier this week called on Tinkler to front the members, several creditors directly involved with the footy side came out of the woodwork to report they were still owed money.

Buddy-minded approach

Let Buddy Franklin live. Why won’t you let him live?

There’s paparazzi parked in front of the Bondi home of the Swans superstar 24-7 as he comes to terms with life in Sin City.

Stories about his wicked influence on teammate Dan Hannebery have been whirring around for months. It’s surprising that it’s taken so long for the Mafiosos of the Melbourne press to sniff that one out, let alone publish it.

The interest in Franklin was put in context last Saturday lunchtime when our spies spotted GWS stars Stephen Conigilio and Jonathan Paton having a quiet beer and a bet in the Coogee Bay Hotel sports bar in absolute anonymity.

Rugby league's good guys

There’s some chance this item will make you cry, but it will also make you realise what footy players do without anyone knowing.

About a month ago, Rob and Amy McIntyre, of Dubbo, had their nine-month-old boy, Max, airlifted to Sydney with bacterial meningitis.

It came out of nowhere. Max had been suffering a high temperature and a cold, but nobody expected this.

Since then, the young couple has been coming to terms with the fact they are facing the worst of outcomes.

They work at the Daily Liberal newspaper in Dubbo, and the city has rallied behind them as cities from the country generally do, raising $25,000.

The paper's sports editor, Ben Walker, wanted to take it a step further.

Knowing his colleague Rob is an Eels fan, he emailed the NRL club about the possibility of a player making a visit to Bear Cottage in Manly, where Max is receiving palliative care.

Normally, it takes six weeks for something like this to be arranged.

The Eels had Darcy Lussick visiting the McIntyre family within days.

“You hear a lot of bad things about footballers,” Ben told us. “But to set that up in a matter of days is something that was really appreciated. They put a smile on Rob and Amy’s face during a really tough time.”

Shane Warne takes a beating from a woman, but it's all for a good cause

Shane Warne has never had a problem getting close to women.

This time, though, it's ended with him sprawled on the canvas after receiving a knee to the gut and a kick to the chest.

Earlier this year, Warnie signed up as a sportingbet.com.au ambassador and agreed to several challenges with the leading bookmaker. When he wins a bet, the money goes to The Shane Warne Foundation.

He's already copped 50 paintballs at close range and refused to hold a bird-eating spider.

This week, he stepped into the ring with a leading female kick-boxer, and needed to last a full round. He lasted 10 seconds.

"They told me it wasn't going to hurt," Warne told us. "But it actually felt like I was being hit with a sledgehammer."

Sportingbet still paid out, donating $5000 to his charity.

May this column suggest his next challenge be a Seinfeld-esque "Master of my domain" competition?

THE QUOTE

"Look who I bumped into at the baseball – the one and only Tony Greig ... Cool!" – Oops. Marcia Hines meant Ian Chappell, not the late, great Greig when she posted a pic on Twitter. She later apologised.

THUMBS UP

Harry Kewell is a polemic character, not least among some of his former Socceroos teammates and certainly sections of the media. The line on Harry, who will retire at the end of this season, is that he would've preferred to play for England instead of Australia. Either way, there's no disputing his importance to the game in this country.

THUMBS DOWN

Essendon are the drama queens of Australian sport. Tania Hird appears on the ABC, lashes out at the AFL and says her husband, James, is a "scapegoat" and the Bombers hold emergency meetings and telephone hook-ups and wonder what to do. Seriously? Was it that much of an issue? Meanwhile, Tania Hird's next television appearance will be in The Real Housewives of Melbourne.

It’s a big weekend for … Manchester United, who play Aston Villa in the Premier League. We don't support Man U, but please win, just to shut Liverpool supporters up. Cheers.

It’s an even bigger weekend for … the Roosters and Manly, who will square off in the grand final rematch at Allianz Stadium on Friday night. Neither of last season's grand finalists have set the NRL on fire in the opening rounds of the competition. But the Sea Eagles appear to be doing it tougher than the Chooks.

Q & A: CALLAN WARD

The Greater Western Sydney captain speaks ahead of Saturday's clash with St Kilda.

As captain, what did you say before that game against the Swannies? Can you take all of the credit?

All of it! No, not really. We were actually confident going into that game.

What did the Swans players say after it?

Nothing. Not a word. I think they were in shock. They were very quiet towards the end of the game, and didn't understand what was happening.

Have you visited your co-captain Phil Davis in hospital as he nurses a kidney injury out of that game?

I have. He's just come out of ICU and he's fine. It's pretty scary when you think about it. If you lose a kidney, you can't play footy again. He did it in the first quarter and played on a superstar [Buddy Franklin] for the rest of the game.

You guys did the impossible  you bumped Buddy off the back page for a couple of days.

It's funny. Before he came, you hardly read about AFL in the newspapers in Sydney. Since he arrived, he's in there every day.

You don't covet that sort of attention at all?

Ha! Not at all. He's on the big bucks so he would be used to it.

Are you still cutting your teammates' hair?

Yes, I am. I've got a few booked in for tomorrow. I do it when I can, but it's hard to find the time, and some players are too tight to pay for their own haircuts.

Who's got the funkiest hair at GWS?

Jonathan Giles. I just cut his big fringe off. Stephen Coniglio is always very funky. The hardest ones are the ones with really thick hair. Tom Bugg is extremely hard to cut. It's like a big microphone head.

Any of the players thinning at all? Have you had to say "Stop the fight"?

There's a couple. They ask me to thin it out and I just say, "What are you talking about? It's thinning out naturally."

Who?

I won't name names.