IT was the most emotional of days for the Newcastle Knights and their legion of fans.
With promising and popular young forward Alex McKinnon lying in a Melbourne hospital with serious spinal injuries, Knights players gathered their spirits and their strength before last Sunday's home game at Hunter Stadium.
McKinnon was driven head-first into the ground in a dangerous tackle during the Knights' third-round clash with Melbourne Storm nine days ago.
The 22-year-old Aberdeen Tigers junior was rushed to Alfred Hospital where scans confirmed the dislocation of the C4 and C5 vertebrae.
He had surgery to stabilise his neck last Tuesday. He was then placed into an induced coma.
In response to the Newcastle Knights' call to #Rise For Alex, a sea of red and blue supporters waved placards of support as they watched Sunday's match.
The players answered in kind, handing a 30-0 belting to the Cronulla Sharks.
Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett paid tribute to his team and the crowd.
"When I saw the jerseys and the people and the fans wearing their colours, I realised they've been in the same pain and hurt that we've been in," he said.
McKinnon's family said he could now communicate.
As The Star went to print, McKinnon's breathing was being monitored and he was having intense physiotherapy.
The Knights have dedicated the rest of the season to McKinnon, and will wear his number - 232 - on their jerseys. He was the 232nd first-grade player to wear the Knights jersey.
The Knights play the North Queensland Cowboys this Monday, April 7, at 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville, from 7pm.