INJURED Knights back-rower Alex McKinnon is preparing for the hardest part of his rehabilitation from ankle surgery – resisting the urge to return before he has fully recovered.
The 21-year-old Aberdeen Tigers junior has not played since suffering a fractured fibula and syndesmosis ligament damage when he was on the wrong end of Nathan Peats’s “cannonball” tackle in Newcastle’s 25-18 loss to South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on June 1.
The Country Origin representative kicked off his CAM boot last week, is pain-free and will resume full-blown running this weekend. His targeted comeback game is the blockbuster against defending premiers Melbourne at Hunter Stadium on August 18 but McKinnon is determined to return before then.
“Hopefully I’m ahead of schedule,” McKinnon said.
“We’re talking about round 23, so that’s what I’m aiming for.”
McKinnon said he would try to convince Knights physiotherapist Phil Coles to give him the green light before the Melbourne game.
“I want to come back early, obviously, because it doesn’t hurt at the moment – even when I run it doesn’t hurt – so it’s always a temptation for me to push it forward,” he said.
“But I’ve got a good physio there in Phil Coles, and he’s definitely not listening to my thoughts.
“There’s no point in me coming back early, not playing good then not making the team.
“The boys have been going really well the last few games . . . so for me to come back and be any chance of playing back where I was, I need my ankle to be 100 per cent.”
■ Former Knights game-breaker Adam MacDougall knows exactly what Darius Boyd and James McManus were going through in last night’s State of Origin decider.
MacDougall and several former Newcastle and NSW teammates, including Paul Harragon, Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus, Matt Gidley and Timana Tahu, went through the experience when they lined up against proud and passionate Maroon Robbie O’Davis.
“It’s not about hurting each other’s feelings; it’s about personal pride and state pride,” MacDougall said.
“Whilst you play with a guy in your club team, once you step out on that field, they’re just another guy in a maroon jersey – or for Darius, a blue jersey.
“There’s nothing worse than coming back to training the next week if you haven’t won an Origin. They’re walking around with a big smile on their face and you’re walking around with your chin on the ground because you’ve got the sooks, so you certainly want bragging rights.”
■ Stand-in Knights skipper Jarrod Mullen used some of his down time last week to visit his family.
Wayne Bennett gave the team the week off after they beat the Bulldogs in Mackay on July 7, and they did not reassemble until training on Monday morning.
Mullen headed to Merriwa to visit his sister, Kayla, and celebrate his niece Eden’s first birthday.
“I didn’t touch a footy and didn’t watch a game,” Mullen said.
“It was good to see the family and catch up with everyone.
“You’re football 24-7 when you’re in season, so it was good to get away and refresh the mind and the body, and I’m looking forward to this weekend now.”
■ KO-FM breakfast radio host David Collins wants the tipping record set straight.
Collins picked a perfect four from four last week, despite this very League HQ liftout listing him last Thursday as having tipped Brisbane to beat Cronulla.
So, as shown on the previous page, Collins has soared to 79.5 points for the season. He is still 14th but has extended his lead over Cheryl Salisbury (77.5) and Suzy Batkovic (76.5).
■ Wayne Bennett is doing his bit for the Goannas.
The coach will be guest speaker at a charity lunch at Cessnock Supporters Club tomorrow week.
Organiser Kane Bradley said the function was a joint initiative between Cessnock Rugby League, Cessnock Rugby League Old Boys and Cessnock Minor Rugby League. Bradley said some of the proceeds would be donated to the Motor Neurone Disease Association of NSW.
Tickets are $75, available at Cessnock Supporters Club. Kick-off is 12.30pm.