ALEX McKinnon is moving on, with a smile on his face.
The former Knights player, whose life changed forever when he suffered a devastating spinal injury playing against Melbourne on March 24, 2014, spoke candidly during a guest appearance on Foxtel’s League Life show on Wednesday.
In his first in-depth interview since a 60 Minutes feature in 2015, when he was critical of the Storm players involved in the fateful tackle and especially Test skipper Cameron Smith, McKinnon said he was no longer burdened by the “hate and frustration” he initially experienced.
“I had a lot of anger towards, particularly the Storm and … the tackle, and also directed at Cameron,” he told the League Life panelists.
“Sitting back that night and watching the 60 Minutes program, I just didn’t like the way that I looked.
“It just wasn’t me.
“I’m not that type of person.
“In reflection to that, I called Cameron and actually apologised to him on how things were handled.
“It was actually a time where I got to forgive and forget and move on.
“I was always saying: ‘Why me?’ But I needed to move on from that … it was like a massive weight lifted off my shoulders, and I really needed that.”
He said he would one day like to “sit down and have a chat” with Storm prop Jordan McLean, who was suspended for seven games for his role in the tackle.
“I understand that he never went into that game to hurt me,” he said.
McKinnon said his change in attitude allowed friends and family to find a degree of acceptance, too.
“When something like this happens, it’s not just yourself that goes through this, it’s everybody else,” he said.
“I kind of took a leadership role in that, and for me to be able to forgive and forget and move on, I think that allowed them to do the same.”
The 25-year-old from Aberdeen revealed that he and fiancee Teigan Power would be getting married in October.
While regaining the ability to walk was “still a goal”, he was unlikely to achieve that on his wedding day, as he had once hoped.
“I’ll definitely be standing at the wedding, that’s something which I’m excited about, standing up in the aisle, waiting for Teigan to come down … [but] as it stands today, I probably won’t be walking Teigan down the aisle,” he said.
After “many tears, many struggles” in his recovery and rehabilitation, McKinnon said he was still making progress.
“I consider myself really lucky,” he said.
“A lot of people with spinal cord injuries don’t continue to improve three years down the track.
“I would like to, obviously, be in a better position.
“I’d like to be walking and running around and all that type of stuff, but it is what it is. I’m grateful that I am still improving.”
After working for about a year in a junior-recruitment role for the Knights, McKinnon left the club in March to undertake a TAFE course in leadership and management and forge a new career as a motivational speaker.
When he told Newcastle chief executive Matt Gidley he needed to resign to “focus on myself”, Gidley replied: “There is always a job here if you want it in the future”.
Despite reports late last year that McKinnon intended to sue the NRL for the injury he sustained, he said he had a “really healthy” relationship with the governing body and was “really grateful” for the support he had received.
“Right from the start they’ve looked after me so much, with regards to rehab and support, anything I’ve ever needed … I don’t know where it’s going to go in the future, because I can’t say where that’s going,” he said.