De Belin's focus on hurt mate McKinnon

RUGBY LEAGUE

He lay prone on the floor for three days unable to move with his own injury two weeks ago but Jack de Belin knows how insignificant it was compared to the concerns facing schoolboy teammate Alex McKinnon.

The pair were country-raised kids who boarded at esteemed rugby league nursery St Gregory's at Campbelltown before they graduated to the ranks of the Dragons' junior system.

It was only when McKinnon left to link up with Wayne Bennett's Newcastle Knights that the pair were finally broken up on the footy field, but it didn't stop de Belin from watching in horror when he caught a replay of his mate's injury on Monday.

"He's one of the toughest blokes [I know]," de Belin said. "He doesn't stay down unless he's really hurt.

"I honestly can't even remember him getting injured. He just plays game after game after game. I watched the replay [Tuesday] morning and it looked pretty bad.

"I think everyone's praying for him at the moment. I'll give him a call in the next couple of days once the heat dies down a little bit."

McKinnon was confirmed to have fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae in a tackle against Melbourne at AAMI Park.

It will be weeks before doctors can fully determine the extent of McKinnon's injury.

De Belin's painful corked thigh, suffered in the opening round against the Tigers, seems completely inconsequential compared to the long term health of McKinnon.

The Cootamundra junior limped from the field in agony against the Tigers before he was a late addition to St George Illawarra's ranks for the win over the Sharks.

Dragons performance director Andrew Gray described de Belin's cork as one of the worst he'd seen, which needed three days to finally stop bleeding.

"It's still a bit sore and when I first did it ... it honestly felt like I'd been shot in the leg," de Belin said after training with heavy strapping on his thigh on Tuesday.

"I've dislocated my hip and I've broken my ankle but it was up there pain wise. I knew straight away as soon as it happened I couldn't put any pressure on it and the blood had gone everywhere.

"It was swollen up and for three days. I just laid on the carpet and had my leg up elevated on the couch. I pretty much didn't leave the floor for three days."

Coach Steve Price showed an enormous amount of faith in rushing de Belin straight back into his side for the Sharks clash after he struggled all week to run freely.

And de Belin didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to be involved in a side which is one of two teams still unbeaten this season.

"The whole feeling around the club is so different and so much better overall [compared to last year]," de Belin said.

"It's a lot more positive and fun to be around. We're training a lot better and the new characters have brought the morale up.

"A few people wrote us off early, but we knew we were sweet to not get into a rut like we did last year."

The Dragons named an unchanged line-up on Tuesday for the clash against Brisbane at WIN Stadium on Friday.

Bronson Harrison and Jack Stockwell, who made his return via the NSW Cup last weekend, were added to the interchange.

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