Emotions run high for Alex McKinnon's return
An emotional day lies ahead for the Newcastle Knights as Alex McKinnon returns for the first time to the ground where he played most of his football.
On Sunday, McKinnon will return to Hunter Stadium in Newcastle, Australia, for the Knight's NRL round 19 match against the Gold Coast Titans.
The NRL has branded the weekend's rugby league as the 'Rise For Alex' round with proceeds from the clubs and matches going into a fund set up for the injured McKinnon.
Yesterday the Warriors announced they would donate at least $20,000 to the fund.
The fateful tackle was in round three of this year's NRL season, in March against the Storm in Melbourne. McKinnon has been confined to a wheelchair since, though he has some feeling in his legs and hopes to one day walk again.
The round three match was followed the next week by an emotional performance from the team as they played for McKinnon in the 'Rise for Alex' game against the Cronulla Sharks. The Knights belted Cronulla that day, winning 30-0.
Knights prop Willie Mason was expecting emotions to overflow again on Sunday and the Titans might be in for a similar thumping.
''I thought the Cronulla game at the start of the year when it was the Rise for Alex game, it was highly emotional for a lot of guys and this one is probably going to be twice as much,'' Mason said.
''I know in that circle we were standing in (before the game), everyone was crying and I know in this one it is probably going to be as bad.
''If you can't rise up for this you shouldn't be playing rugby league.
''The whole NRL is going to stand up, but we are the club that are going to do it.''
The NRL have announced a range of matchday activities at Hunter Stadium that included a performance by pop superstar Jessica Mauboy.
The result of the game would be something of a footnote, but the Knights could continue their unlikely finals push with a fourth win in a row.
But much of the focus will be on McKinnon.
''It is the Rise for Alex week, but he doesn't want to put it on himself, he is thanking everybody else that is the sort of guy he is,'' Mason said.
''He is such good kid, I can't say anything bad about the kid. I've got nothing but love for him.''