NRL: McLean gets seven weeks for McKinnon tackle

Jordan McLean of the Melbourne Storm arrives at the NRL Judiciary Hearing. Photo / Getty Images
Jordan McLean of the Melbourne Storm arrives at the NRL Judiciary Hearing. Photo / Getty Images

The NRL judiciary has come down hard on Jordan McLean, suspending the Melbourne Storm prop Jordan McLean for seven weeks for a lifting tackle on Alex McKinnon that left the Newcastle back-rower with a devastating spinal injury.

The three-man panel, comprising former Test players Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane and Chris McKenna, needed less than 10 minutes to find McLean guilty after one of the most anticipated judiciary hearings in the game's long history.

After successfully convincing the panel of McLean's "substantial" involvement in the three-man tackle gone wrong, NRL counsel Peter Kite sought a ban of between seven and 11 weeks.

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Kite said there was no suggestion McLean intended to lift McKinnon, but that he was certainly careless - and largely to blame.

As such he asked that the charge be considered between a grade one and grade three dangerous throw (125 to 525 points) with an additional 600 points for the seriousness of the injury.

The panel did not however explain how it determined the seven-week (725 points) suspension - two weeks more than Canterbury's Krisnan Inu received for a nasty lifting tackle on South Sydney superstar Greg Inglis last year.

McKinnon remains in Melbourne's The Alfred hospital in a serious but stable condition with a broken neck and facing the possibility of never being able to walk again.

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He was brought out of an induced coma at the weekend following surgery last Tuesday for damage to his C4 and C5 vertebrae and has been conscious since.

McKinnon began communicating with his family on Sunday after his assisted ventilation was removed, but has reportedly been told he is a quadriplegic.

A shattered McLean sat stone-faced throughout the one-hour hearing at league headquarters in Sydney, refusing to watch any of the more than 30 replays of the tackle that were shown over and over from eight different camera angles.

McLean's lawyer Nick Ghabar had pleaded not guilty to the dangerous throw charge levelled against the shattered front-rower, arguing McKinnon had been the victim of a "terrible and tragic accident".

"There will be no winners from tonight whatever you decide," Ghabar told the panel before submitting his case for the 22-year-old.

Ghabar urged the panel to remove any emotion from the case and to exercise their common sense as former players to accept the tackle was an accident.

Ghabar expressed deep sympathy for McKinnon and his family but, insisted with respect that the Knights youngster "unfortunately and unwittingly" contributed to his injury by "tucking his head into his chest" before hitting the ground.

He said if McKinnon did not change his posture mid-tackle, "there is no way he would have landed on his head".

Ghabar also argued that McLean never lifted McKinnon much beyond horizontal - and certainly not vertical - and that "significant downward force" from the other two players in the tackle, Storm brothers Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, played as much part.

But prosecutor Kite successfully contended that while the Bromwich brothers undoubtedly contributed to the tackle gone wrong, "substantial responsibility for the lift was borne by player McLean".

Storm chief executive Mark Evans said the club was considering its position, indicating an appeal may follow.

"The first point I want to make along with everyone in rugby league I think it is really important that all our best wishes go to the young fella who is still very seriously injured," he said.

"That can't be obscured by anything that happens in the judiciary process.

"(But) we came here tonight feeling that the tackle was a terrible accident. (It) was really no different to hundreds of tackles you see like that in the NRL every season."

- AAP

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