Mate says no malice in McKinnon tackle

TRAGEDY: Alex McKinnon after the tackle  in Melbourne on Monday night.
TRAGEDY: Alex McKinnon after the tackle in Melbourne on Monday night.

ALEX McKinnon’s former St George Illawarra teammate David Gower has expressed his shock at the Newcastle back-rower’s sickening injury but says rugby league is still a safe sport.

The Eels prop was in the Dragons side when McKinnon scored two tries on his NRL debut against the Gold Coast in 2011.

McKinnon moved to the Knights 12 months later.

Gower, speaking before the Knights issued a statement last night about the gravity of the injury, said every player would have been shocked by the sight of McKinnon leaving the field in such a bad way but said there was no question of any malice from the Storm players.

‘‘It’s scary. It’s not a nice thing, but what do you do? It’s an aspect of the game. We understand that when we take the field but no one intentionally goes out there to do it.

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‘‘It’s just one of them really unfortunate awkward tackles that just went wrong. But the boys, they haven’t gone in there intentionally to tip him on his head.’’

The NRL outlawed the shoulder charge last year and outlawed third-man-in tackles below the knee this season, but Gower said it would be wrong to change tackling rules further.

‘‘If you lift and it goes wrong, you get cited by the match review committee and, if you they find you guilty, you serve a suspension,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s just an area in the tackle, just went wrong. You’ve got a split second. It’s just something that’s gone wrong.

‘‘The danger is, if you get  rid of many tackles, you can’t tackle.

‘‘The rules are there. We all understand them ... and I think it’s a safe game. It’s just unfortunate incidents happen every now and then.’’

Veteran centre Willie Tonga said he was stunned at the news.

‘‘I’ve got no words for it. I’ve had my share of injuries but, when you hear something like that, it sends tingles up your spine,’’ he said. ‘‘I send my best wishes to him and I can only imagine what he’s going through at the moment.’’