IT was the smile that every Newcastle Knights rugby league fan wanted to see.
The smile arrived early and often as injured player Alex McKinnon gave a personal update via video yesterday.
McKinnon appeared upbeat after four weeks of recovery, explaining on the Knights website he had ‘‘great sensation’’ in his legs.
‘‘I’ve obviously come a long way,’’ the 22-year-old from Aberdeen said.
‘‘I’ve got a lot more movement back in my right arm and a lot of movement back in my left arm, so it’s just a matter of time before I hopefully have a bit more movement in my legs. I’ve got a great sensation and feeling in my legs and it’s a lot of positive signs.’’
Beyond the medical updates, McKinnon’s demeanour gave a glimpse of the determination that made the 22-year-old one of the NRL’s rising stars.
Speaking from Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, McKinnon said he expected to spend another two months having two physiotherapy sessions a day ‘‘which is pretty much just getting my arms and legs moving’’ as well as occupational therapy.
‘‘I’m obviously not moving much through the day so I’m a bit stiff,’’ he said. ‘‘I was playing Connect Four yesterday and that was fun, frustrating but fun. It’s been a pretty tough month but there are a lot of improvements and that’s keeping me going.’’
McKinnon also paid tribute to his parents, Scott and Kate, as well as fiancee Teigan Power, for taking time away from work to stand by him.
He singled out Teigan, who he pledged to walk down the aisle when he announced their engagement earlier this month, as a pillar of support.
‘‘I’ve got a great family, they’ve been here every day, and I have got a great partner,’’ McKinnon said.
‘‘Just being able to have them by my side for the last four weeks has been able to help me the most.
‘‘I think it was only last night I was saying ‘I wish I could do something else, I wish I was better’ and she [Teigan] said ‘You are better compared to two weeks ago’.
‘‘Teigan’s still got uni and her job, and the people at the Sunnyside [Tavern at Georgetown] have really looked after her.’’
Support from his teammates and the club had also been vital, McKinnon said, including a huge performance he was yet to see.
He singled out the emotional 30-0 victory over Cronulla as one of the ways his teammates had helped him, but admitted he hadn’t seen the match.
The game, the first the Knights played after he was hurt, began with a standing ovation from the crowd and the Sharks while the Knights players and staff locked in a tight huddle.
‘‘I still haven’t watched the game,’’ McKinnon said. ‘‘I watched maybe a clip of it that went for about two minutes, I was in tears straight away.’’
His teammates had done ‘‘incredible things’’ for him since the moment he was stretchered off AAMI Park, McKinnon said.
‘‘One of the things I miss most is seeing the boys and being around them,’’ he said.
‘‘Them coming down really makes me happy, it really makes my day – it makes my week, to tell you the truth.
‘‘They’ve been very strong for me and having them here has been unbelievable, I’ve loved seeing them.’’
The Newcastle Herald revealed this week that league officials were considering awarding a medal named after McKinnon to the man of the match in the City-Country fixture.
McKinnon said the #riseforalex social media campaign and the groundswell of support after his spinal injury was both unexpected and invigorating.
‘‘I’m pretty overwhelmed by all the support to tell you the truth, I didn’t expect it and once I get through this journey I really do [intend] to go and see everyone,’’ he said.
‘‘I can’t emphasise how much I really do appreciate the support and how much it’s helping me, even with cards or messages from people in Sweden or New Zealand, just people that don’t know me.
‘‘At the start it was pretty overwhelming, I was in tears a fair bit and I just didn’t understand why so many people wanted to help me but Wayne made it pretty clear to me about why so many people want to help and I really would like to thank them eventually once I’m back.
‘‘Hopefully I’ll get to see everyone soon at a game, which I’d really enjoy.’’
EARLIER REPORT: Hurt Knight Alex McKinnon provides update on his recovery: video, photos
ALEX McKinnon has provided a personal update to Knights fans on his recovery after the devastating spinal injury that may have ended his NRL career.
Speaking in a video, the Aberdeen 22-year-old remains upbeat and describes having "great sensation" in his legs four weeks after the incident.
He said he expects to spend another two months rehabilitating in Sydney, where he undergoes physiotherapy twice a day "which is pretty much just getting my arms and legs moving" as well as occupational therapy, including games of Connect Four.
"That was fun...frustrating but fun," he said.
"It's been a pretty tough month but there are a lot of improvements and that, that's keeping me going."
McKinnon also paid tribute to his parents Scott and Kate as well as fiance Teigan Power, who he has pledged to walk down the aisle.
"I've got a great family, they've been here every day, and I have got a great partner [Teigan Power]," McKinnon said.
"I think it was only last night I was saing 'I wish I could do something else, I wish I was better' and she said 'you are better compared to two weeks ago'."
He also paid tribute to his teammates and their emotional boilover shut-out against the Sharks in his honour.
"I still haven't watched the game," he said.
"I watched a clip of it that went for about two minutes and I was in tears straight away."
"One of the things I miss most is seeing the boys and being around them."
McKinnon said the #riseforalex campaign and the support he received was both unexpected and overwhelming.
"When I get through this journey I really do [intend] to go and see everyone," he said.
"I can't emphasise how much I really do appreciate the support and how much it's helping me."
"At the start it was pretty overwhelming...Wayne made it pretty clear to me why so many people want to help and I really would like to thank them once I'm back."