State of Origin captains Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith have taken the rare step of putting aside State rivalries to join forces for Alex McKinnon’s fundraising campaign.
Known for their fierce on-field competition, the captains stood side-by-side today at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, to officially launch the RiseForAlex Round (18-21 July) and detail the ways Rugby League fans and the public can provide support to Alex McKinnon, who suffered serious spinal injuries playing for Newcastle Knights against Melbourne Storm earlier this season.
It is the first time in recent memory that the State of Origin captains have agreed to come together ahead of an Origin match.
“We have put our rivalries aside for a short time today to come together for a cause that is at the heart of every player in the game,” said Blues captain Gallen said.
Queensland captain Cameron Smith said that Alex’s road to recovery had been incredibly inspiring for so many.
“Alex’s achievement over the past few months shows his incredible courage and positivity. I think we should applaud Alex’s strength by digging deep and supporting the Rise for Alex round,” said Smith.
As part of the RiseForAlex round the NRL will be donating one dollar to the RiseForAlex Fund for every Rugby League Fan who attends any match during Round 19, while fans can make donations by purchasing a RiseForAlex wristband that will be sold at all matches across the RiseForAlex Round.
Fans can also make donations online at www.riseforalex.org.au or by texting RiseForAlex to 0498 555 555.
Channel Nine’s Footy Show will host a telethon during their broadcast on July 17, with the call centre open from 8:30pm AEST. Telstra will host the call centre, with 150 Telstra volunteers and players from several clubs who will be assisting with answering calls during the night.
The Daily Telegraph will also donate one dollar from every newspaper sold on Saturday 19 June.
The NRL’s broadcast partners Fox Sports, 2GB and Triple M have also thrown their support behind the cause.
In a video update played at today’s launch, Alex thanked the community, his family and his mates for their support.
“Being at the game in Round 19 is going to be a great occasion,” Alex said.
“Newcastle has looked after me and the whole community has looked after me over the last few months. I am really looking forward to going to the game.
“With the community of the NRL, my family, (girlfriend) Teigan, all my mates and everyone from Newcastle, it hasn’t been easy but they have made it a lot easier and I would just like to say thank you.”
NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith said it was the ultimate compliment to Alex that the captains had joined forces today.
“Alex McKinnon has brought the Rugby League community together like never before with his positive attitude and contagious smile,” said Smith.
“Through the toughest of times, he has continued to display a brand of courage, determination and spirit that lifts everyone around him.
“Alex represents a true role model for everyone in the game.
“The Rugby League community support one another in times of need and we are calling on fans to come together for Alex McKinnon.”
The captains were also joined by RiseForAlex Fund Director Wendy Carmichael and Knights Chairman Paul Harragon.
The RiseForAlex Fund has been established to provide ongoing financial and medical support to the Newcastle Knights’ forward who was injured during Round 3 of the Telstra Premiership.
The RiseForAlex Fund is independently managed by a board of directors to ensure ongoing support is provided to Alex now and into the future. The Fund will look to provide support for accessible housing, a vehicle, a wheelchair, physiotherapy and rehabilitation assistance as well as ongoing medical assistance as required.
“We are calling out to everyone to support Alex by raising much needed funds that will allow Alex to deal with the challenges he is facing while continuing to focus on his rehabilitation,” Ms Carmichael said.