FORMER Queensland Origin prop Ben Ross felt ‘‘sick’’ when he saw Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon injured in a lifting tackle on Monday night.
Ross, who is now the Men of League welfare manager, broke his neck while playing for Cronulla in the opening round of the 2009 season against Manly.
‘‘I was scared,’’ Ross said when asked what had gone through his mind when he saw McKinnon injured in the tackle gone wrong by rookie Melbourne forward Jordan McLean and brothers Jesse and Kenneth Bromwich.
‘‘I haven’t seen the video. Once I saw a picture I didn’t want to watch it. Talking about it now I’ve got chills, and I feel a bit sick just thinking about the way it happened. It just brings back really bad memories for myself. Just the thought of what I had to go through. It is not the most pleasant thing.’’
Ross spent 12 days in hospital after surgery and was bedridden at home for three months.
He had two more operations over the next two years before returning to play for South Sydney.
‘‘Alex has got a bit to go through, unfortunately, and the problem is he is so far away from home,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I know firsthand because I only had my wife here and my family is up in Queensland. It is tough, very tough, but the NRL are so supportive these days.
‘‘When I first did my neck there weren’t the welfare officers there are now. The NRL are taking all the right steps now and they are right onto it, so he is getting good support, which is great.’’
Men of League and the Rugby League Players Association also offer support.
Ross said he had been in touch with McKinnon’s family.
‘‘With Men Of League, we can offer them a lot of assistance,’’ he said.
‘‘We have our financial support and our welfare support, our counsellors, because there is a lot going through their heads, [like] whether they can play footy again.
‘‘I know the depression I went through, so the support we can give them through our counsellors and our financial support to help the family out, not only with monetary support if their medical bills aren’t all covered, but we’ve also got petrol vouchers and food vouchers and travel vouchers to get the family to and from them, so there is so much we can help them out with, which is great.’’
RLPA media and communications manager Gennie Sheer said the players association had also offered support for McKinnon and his family.
‘‘Obviously we will provide whatever support he needs, but at this stage it is a little early to say what that may be until such time as they have done a full diagnosis of what it is and what the impact is, but we have been in touch with them already,’’ she said.
Ross also said counselling would be offered to McLean and other players affected by the incident.
‘‘You worry about both players, not only Alex but the player who made the tackle,’’ he said.
‘‘The guy who made the tackle, of course, you are going to feel guilty even though it was only an accident, but the NRL will ensure he gets the support.
‘‘That’s what we look at with Men of League, we think when someone is in a bad state is it only them affected or is it their family or other people, too,’’ Ross said.