As speculation continues over a meeting between Cameron Smith and Alex McKinnon to discuss their differences, the NRL has announced a foundation to further help players who sustain catastrophic injuries.
The NRL will launch a new Whole of Game Foundation to give more immediate support in addition to the insurance scheme the governing body already has in place, which provides compensation of up to $1 million to NRL players who suffer severe injuries. Chief executive Dave Smith said the Foundation would assist with interim medical bills and other expenses, providing one-off funding when an injury occurs to help meet initial medical costs along with travel and accommodation for the hurt players' family members. Players at all levels of rugby league from schoolboys and juniors right through to the NRL would be eligible. Smith said the NRL has partnered with Spinal Cord Injuries Australia to work on strategies for the package and fund joint research initiatives. The Foundation will be launched this weekend during the Men of League Heritage Round, when the NRL will contribute $1 from every ticket sold to support the Foundation and the RiseForAlex campaign. "This week is particularly important because, not only are we continuing to show our support for Alex McKinnon but we are putting in place a support system for players who suffer catastrophic injuries in the future," Smith said. "It comes amid the controversy following McKinnon's bitter criticism of Smith over the Queensland and Melbourne captain's on-field comments to the referee after the tackle that left the former Newcastle forward a quadriplegic in March last year. Smith declined to answer questions about plans to talk to McKinnon during a media conference in Melbourne on Tuesday before his 300th appearance this weekend. "I said that this whole process will be dealt with privately and that's the way we need to keep it," he said.