Melbourne Storm prop Jordan McLean has been suspended for seven weeks after he was found guilty of using a dangerous throw on Alex McKinnon, which has almost certaintly ended the Newcastle star’s career.
In a round three NRL clash last week, McKinnon ran the ball into Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny, who had the 22-year-old by the upper body. They had not halted his progress, though, so in came McLean, also 22, to take him to the ground. The prop lifted McKinnon’s legs and the downward force from the Bromwich brothers caused the Newcastle forward to land on his head, breaking his neck in the process.
It is clear from the stomach-churning video footage (and the image slideshow below) that no malice was intended and that it was simply a tragic accident. However, McLean’s actions could be seen as reckless and the NRL had to make an example of him.
At a judiciary hearing last night, NRL prosecutor Peter Kite asked for a ban of between seven and 11 weeks, according to reports, and the three-man panel comprising former players Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane and Chris McKenna agreed that the lower end of the sentence was sufficient.
Throughout the emotional hour-long hearing in Sydney, McLean is said to have been stone-faced, remorseful and unable to watch any of the footage. His legal representative, Nick Ghabar, claimed McLean’s actions were not the main cause of the damage.
“I do not mean to apportion blame to him [McKinnon] for what has happened to him,” he said. “What I mean to say is he has unfortunately and unwittingly and undoubtedly played a significant part in how this tackle ended up. My ultimate submission will be that this is a tragic accident and whatever Alex did in this tackle he did as part of a tragic accident. That’s purely what it was.
“Although there was a lift at the start of the tackle, that lift on itself doesn’t place Alex into a dangerous position. If Alex had kept his head in the same position, there’s no way he could have got his head in a dangerous position if he’d kept his head in the same position [as he was at the highest point of the tackle].”
The NRL originally deferred this hearing to protect the feelings of all involved, and McLean was provisionally stood down. However, he was granted an exemption to play in Saturday’s clash with Canterbury Bulldogs as Storm felt it was best for the player’s wellbeing.