Alex McKinnon's faith in schoolmate Jack De Belin now being repaid

If not for Alex McKinnon, Jack De Belin's NRL career may never have happened.

The pair, mates from their time together at St Gregory's College in Campbelltown, dreamed about playing first grade.

Along with another future Dragon, Jack Stockwell, the trio were the pick of the bunch as they came up through the grades.

But an injury to De Belin at an inopportune time meant his friends got picked up by St George Illawarra and he did not.

But on the recommendation of McKinnon and Stockwell, Red V officials took a punt on a third teen forward.

"Both him and Jack Stockwell were signed up to the Dragons at the time," De Belin recalled.

"In my first year at St Greg's I broke my ankle and didn't play any footy at all. Then in year 12 I was playing in the first 13 with them.

"There was another Dragons player contracted here that I was starting in front of. Both Macca and Stocky said to a few people down here, 'There's a raw kid from the country who goes all right; you should give him a chance.'

"Ben Haran was one of the recruitment officers for the Dragons and he came to watch me play. I don't know if I played that well, to tell you the truth, but he must have seen a bit in me.

"He told me to come down and have a pre-season and from there I got a contract. I'm forever grateful they spread the word. If it wasn't for them, I might not be here today. You never know."

McKinnon's faith in De Belin was justified.

The grandson of former Australian back-rower Fred De Belin was named the 2011 National Youth Competition player of the year, has subsequently played 53 games in the top grade and shapes as a key figure if the Dragons are to spring an upset against Manly at WIN Jubilee Oval on Monday.

Now, De Belin is showing that same unwavering faith in his old schoolmate.

The rugby league community is banding together for the RiseForAlex Round to support McKinnon.

The NRL will donate one dollar for every fan who attends any game during round 19, with special activities scheduled at each game to support the injured Newcastle forward.

A range of charity auctions will also be held at games, with Wayne Bennett's signed match ball from his 700th game one of the items up for grabs. McKinnon will attend Newcastle's Hunter Stadium clash against Gold Coast.

"I still remember when he was 16. He's much like he is now, very level-headed," De Belin said.

"Even back then, everyone was touting him to be the next big thing, which he went on to be, and he would never let that get the better of him, he was always very humble.

"He had this aura about him where you respected him straight away; he didn't take any nonsense. That's why a lot of people had that respect for him. He'll be giving himself the best chance to walk again. Whatever happens, he'll pull through."

Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley is hopeful of a home sellout crowd against the Titans.

"I know all of our home fans are going to turn out for a huge one to help Alex and show our support," Gidley said.

"This has brought the whole rugby league community together; nobody wants to see such a devastating injury.

"It's great to see everyone want to come together and help out. Alex certainly appreciates that."

The story Alex McKinnon's faith in schoolmate Jack De Belin now being repaid first appeared on WA Today.

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