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Jordan McLean had indirect role in Alex McKinnon's injury: NRL judiciary found

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Melbourne forward Jordan McLean had an additional four matches added to his suspension for the tackle that left Alex McKinnon with spinal damage because the NRL judiciary panel considered his actions were not a "significant" cause of the injury sustained by the Newcastle forward.

McLean was found guilty of a grade two dangerous throw, which carries a base penalty of 325 demerit points, but he received a seven match ban at Wednesday night's judiciary hearing after the panel deemed the 22-year-old should receive an additional 400 demerit points for the injury suffered by McKinnon.

The revelation that McLean's suspension was increased to take into account the injury has prompted criticism from some who believe that judiciary offences should be judged solely on their merit, but it is common for the match review committee to grade an offence higher if an opposition player was badly hurt.

Jordan McLean with Melbourne Storm official Mark Donaghy on Wednesday night.

Jordan McLean with Melbourne Storm official Mark Donaghy on Wednesday night.

In fact, Fairfax Media has learnt that McLean received only an extra four game ban for a tackle that resulted in McKinnon fracturing his C4 and C5 vertebrae and damaging his spinal cord because the judiciary panel of Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindnder and Chris McKenna felt his role in causing the injury was "right down the very end of the scale".

Had they considered he was more responsible, McLean could have expected a much lengthier ban.

After finding the Storm prop guilty of a dangerous throw, the three former players then had to decide what penalty to impose on him and were given directions from judiciary chairman Paul Conlon, a NSW District Court judge.

Conlon told them that in cases where an injury was the direct result of misconduct by another player, such as an elbow or punch that broke an opponent's jaw, it would be illogical not to impose a harsher penalty than an incident in which the victim was not hurt.

However, he advised them that the McLean case was different because his actions in lifting McKinnon's right leg to tip him off balance, while illegal, were not a direct cause of the terrible injury sustained by the Newcastle second-rower.

"In the present case, it cannot be argued simply that the misconduct of the player and lifting was the cause of injury," Conlon instructed the panel members. "You must assess whether the misconduct was 'a cause' of injury. That is not a significant cause, not a substantial cause, just 'a cause' of the injury and if so you must go on to assess to what extent it was 'a cause' of the injury."

If the panel believed that what McLean did played no role in McKinnon suffering the injury, Conlon said they should not ascribe any additional penalty but, after deciding that the tackle was a grade two offence, Cochrane, Lindner and McKenna imposed an additional 400 demerit points that equated the offence with a grade four dangerous throw.

According to NRL rules, the judiciary panel or match review committee when determining the grading for an offence can take into consideration injury as well as the need for a deterrent.

Canterbury centre Krisnan Inu would have received the same seven match ban last year for his grade four tackle on Greg Inglis, who was not hurt, but had the suspension reduced to five matches after receiving a 25 per cent discount for an early plea.

Because of the extraordinary circumstances around the case, McLean was the first player in the 17 seasons since the formation of the NRL to be referred directly to the judiciary for an offence that was not considered so bad it did not fit under the normal grading scale.

''There has been no case like this in recent memory and it was always going to be a difficult case for the independent panel,'' NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said. ''There is a process in place which was followed but it is clearly a tragic and extraordinary set of circumstance they were dealing with.''

While some tackles similar to McLean's, including one by Bulldogs forward Tim Browne in last weekend's win over Melbourne, have not even attracted a penalty, lifting is outlawed because of the potential for a player to be seriously injured and former great Steve Mortimer said, based on the aftermath, the Storm rookie could not go unpunished.

''I have watched the tackle a few times and there was no intent ... I just don’t know ... you can't give no weeks because it is probably the worst injury that has come out of a tackle,'' Mortimer said.   

Former NSW and Cronulla prop Jason Stevens said he thought the penalty was harsh on McLean and expressed "concerns for his career and future".

''I personally didn't think [he should have been suspended for seven weeks],'' Stevens said. ''And I know that might sound awful considering the devastation of the tackle, which I believe was an accident. I don't think, based purely on the tackle itself, [the suspension] was warranted if you take consequences out of it.''

''It is so devastating for McKinnon’s family ... no one wins ... I'm also thinking of that player [McLean],he's a young bloke and I think it'd already be hard enough dealing with what happened. I just feel he'd personally would be going through a tough time."

with Daniel Lane


55 comments so far

  • I'm so glad "The NRL is in regular contact with the Storm to check on the welfare of Jordan and will provide additional assistance where requested".

    Having significantly exacerbated the problem, let's hope that McLean and the Storm tell the NRL exactly where to go.

    Date and time
    April 03, 2014, 4:42PM
    • The Storm and you lack any sense od basic decency.

      I hope they get double the 7 weeks and a huge fine. Arrogant thugs!

      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 8:43PM
  • I'm surprised at the %age of people suggesting Jordan McLean's punishment is too harsh. In some ways being banned till Alex McKinnon could play again seems appropriate.

    Date and time
    April 03, 2014, 4:52PM
    • some people say that its not a harsh enough penalty, but arguably if the victim of this tragedy had his head 45 degrees in the other direction the tackler would have had no repercussion.

      I want to stress overtly that I do not wish to detract from the horror of McKinnon's injury, this has destroyed his life, but if you look over the last 10-15 years in Rugby League world wide, all governing bodies have made a massive effort to make the contact area safer, and major injury like this one has thankfully not been an issue.

      This has been the most unfortunate of accidents, anyone who thinks McLean got off easy has to realize just one thing Jordan McLean, a 22 year old kid has to live with the fact that he UNINTENTIONALLY broke Alex McKinnon's neck, and deal with the mental repercussions of that for the rest of his life.

      so don't suggest for a second that we should condemn two lives for what could so easily not even bothered one had circumstances been marginally different.

      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 9:29PM
    • Your kidding mate...that tackle happens 400 times a year in the NRL......sorry to say but it was a freak wasn't a spear the replay as hard as it says it all.

      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 9:53PM
    • Please look at the big picture. I don't want any injuries but this was an accident no lift above horizontal and no malice from a gentle giant. Spread the blame it wasnt jordans fault include all the tacklers. If poor alex doesnt duck his head under he lands the same as most tackle s in every game

      Date and time
      April 04, 2014, 7:47AM
  • Missing a handful of games -vs- a broken neck - some people think this is too harsh???

    Hopefully this will be a wake-up call, to both the players and their coaches to re-assess training and methods.

    I can't imagine the Storm Club would appeal, that would be appalling and a slap in the face to McKinnon, his family, and anyone with a sense of decency.

    Slap on the wrist
    Date and time
    April 03, 2014, 5:00PM
    • Lol your joking right! Of course the Storm will appeal most clubs would not have had McLean play on the weekend they did. And the win at all cost including the introduction of the crusher and the choke demonstrates the club has no morals. Don't forget they were caught red handed cheating with the directors acknowledging this and still the captain and coach are in denial anything happened! Appeal will be lodged shortly.

      You're joking
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 11:09PM
  • If this happened outside the football field Maclean would have been given a jail sentence.

    Date and time
    April 03, 2014, 5:02PM
    • You could say that about almost every thing that happens in every contact sport in the world. Back tackle gone wrong. Terrible accident.

      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 5:53PM

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