The 22-year-old, who had been tipped to represent New South Wales in the State of Origin, landed awkwardly in a four-man tackle involving Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny, and prop Jordan McLean. Although replays suggest no malice was involved – it was simply an unfortunate and reckless accident – the injury McKinnon sustained meant charges had to be brought. Indeed, the injury is highly likely to end his career.
The Bromwiches were cleared of any blame but McLean is set to be punished for his involvement. He will appear in front of the NRL’s judiciary panel once McKinnon’s condition has stabilised, to protect the feelings of his family.
“He’s been in an induced coma just to help with the recovery from the surgery and to make sure there is no movement there,” Knights chief executive Matt Gidley told News Corp Australia.
“The scans showed the spinal cord was not cut but they are still determining what damage might have been done there. It’s just a real anxious time at the moment.”
Knights coach Wayne Bennett said: “It’s sad and extremely disappointing for him. There is not much we can do about it. He is getting the best care now and we are giving him all the support we can possibly give him. After that we just have to hope for the best.
“It’s tough on all of us. This kind of thing doesn’t happen. It really does bugger your mind up. He is an outstanding young man.”