Newcastle Knights players in a huddle after Alex McKinnon's devastating injury. Photo: Getty Images
I feel extremely sorry for Alex McKinnon.
First and foremost for his devastating back injury, but also because of the way his club, the Newcastle Knights, have reacted to the handing down of a seven-game ban to Jordan McLean.
The Knights released a wide-ranging statement on Thursday attacking several elements of how the delicate case was handled, including suggestions McKinnon contributed to his injury, the decision to allow McLean to play last weekend and questioning why the two other Melbourne Storm players in the tackle weren't also charged.
Jordan McLean at Wednesday night's judiciary hearing. Photo: Steve Lunam
''The club takes great offence to suggestions Alex McKinnon contributed to his injury when he was totally helpless in a three-man tackle and left with no ability to protect himself,'' the statement said.
''Secondly, the club is disappointed only McLean was charged. His defence acknowledged the involvement of his two teammates in the tackle contributed to Alex's injury, however they have escaped penalty.
"The club applaud the NRL’s decision to postpone the hearing while everyone focused on Alex’s recovery, however, found it insensitive McLean was permitted to play before Wednesday's hearing.
''While the club understands the length of suspension was always going to polarise opinion, the major disappointment lies in the grave inconsistencies of gradings, especially in comparison to recent cases.''
Interestingly, no one at the Knights - a coach or official - was quoted in the statement.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley was reported to have told a Sydney newspaper that the length of the ban to McLean was irrelevelant.
"From my point of view, whether it was seven weeks or two weeks, it was never going to solve anything,'' Gidley said.
"I think it should be judged on the tackle itself and not the outcome of the tackle.''
I don't envy the decision the three-man panel of Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindner and Chris McKenna had to make.
The punishment handed down to McLean was harsh.
He was charged with a grade two dangerous throw worth 325 demerit points, which equates to a three-game suspension, and another 400 points for the injuries sustained to McKinnon from the tackle.
Assessing punishment depending on the severity of the injury sets a dangerous precedent.
High tackles and other illegal activities in rugby league are outlawed to protect the safety of the players.
What the results are doesn't matter.
It's about ensuring there is a sufficient enough penalty so it is a deterrent to players in the future.
The claim from the Knights that it was insensitive for McLean to take the field last weekend is ludicrous.
At that stage, McLean wasn't guilty of anything.
How can you force someone to sit out a game if no punishment has been handed down?
I understand the circumstances regarding the delay of the judiciary hearing were unique, but it doesn't change the fact McLean needs to be given the chance to defend himself.
He was ultimately given that opportunity and the judiciary made its decision.
The Knights should have accepted the verdict and moved on.
I can understand they wanted to stand up for their player, especially when it was suggested he contributed to his own injury, but there's nothing to be gained from the club airing its grievances in public.
The NRL has done the right thing by providing support to McLean in this difficult time.
You never want to see a player forced out of the game, especially in this sort of situation.
There's no winners. Only losers.
No-one could have predicted the dire consequences of McLean's tackle.
It was a freak accident, and one we hope never to see again.
There have been far worse tackles go unpunished or receive lesser treatment than the one that will keep McLean out of the game for the next seven weeks.
All fans, players and officials want is consistency.
In this case, McLean didn't get it.
Right format, wrong team
So we smash England in the Ashes and beat the might of South Africa in its own backyard, but fail miserably in the Twenty20 World Cup.
Is there any reason to be concerned about Australia's dismal showing in the shortest form of the game?
Australian selectors didn't do our chances any help when we clearly chose the wrong side for the conditions in the sub-continent.
While other teams are playing plenty of spinners, Australia is still relying on pace to restrict teams on pitches that clearly don't suit fast bowling.
Fielding, the strong point of Australian teams for as long as anyone can remember, was an Achilles heel.
That was in large part due to the abundance of older players in the squad.
Twenty20 isn't the hit and giggle it was several years ago.
Players specialise in it and should be able to execute the necessary skills to excel at the top level.
I'm prepared to cut Australia a bit of slack given the tremendous success we've had in both the Test and one-day formats in the past 12 months.
Next year's 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will be a big test to how we perform under pressure at a major tournament.