18 hours ago
#RiseForAlex - It's More Than a Game
Some years ago the Newcastle Knights had a club song titled "It's More Than a Game". These words will surely be in the minds of everyone at Hunter Stadium this Sunday afternoon as the Newcastle faithful flock out in their droves to not only watch a game of rugby league, but to honour the man who's been in everyone's thoughts this week - Alex McKinnon.
The Newcastle Knights will play host to the Cronulla Sharks in front of what is expected to be a sold out Hunter Stadium, with the club organising a special tribute to Alex who tragically broke his neck last Monday night after falling awkwardly in a tackle against the Melbourne Storm.
The Knights will have Alex's name and debut club number embroidered across the chest plate of their jerseys and have retired his number sixteen jersey for the remainder of the season. They have also organised a number of Alex's team mates who played juniors at Aberdeen with him to form a guard of honour as the players take to the field.
The crowd will be asked to #RiseForAlex and applaud in his honour, not that they will really need to be asked. It's in these testing times that the Newcastle fans and community in general are often at their best and the famous Novocastrian spirit shines through.
In December 1989 the region was rocked by a huge earthquake tragically taking thirteen lives. The people bound together in support for one another and as a community, rebuilt their city with great courage and spirit.
In the 1990 season the Knights would bring some hope again to a still struggling community, giving the people of Newcastle something to look forward to after such a tragic disaster only months earlier.
With record crowds along the way, the fans drove the Knights to within one game of their first semi-final series, losing a play-off for fifth against the Balmain Tigers to just miss out. However the foundation on which the Newcastle club is now firmly based on was perhaps laid that very season.
In 1997 when the Knights qualified for their first grand final it would ultimately be the fans which gave them the inspiration to get them over the line and gain their first taste of premiership glory.
The town was entrenched in a sea of red and blue with people even going as far as painting their cars and for one parochial fan, their house red and blue.
When the team bus left for Sydney the day before the game, fans lined the streets for thirty kilometres out of Newcastle to see their team off. It was at that time Knight's skipper Paul Harragon turned to his players and vowed that they wouldn't return home without the Optus Cup.
A similar moment in history looks set to unfold tomorrow in what will certainly be more than just a game of footy. The players and the people of Newcastle will turn up to honour Alex McKinnon and show their support to both him and his family.
There's been a motto at the Knights which players past and present have prided themselves on over the years "be the player everyone wants to play alongside". No one has epitomised this more than Alex McKinnon.