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Jump in your car and travel two hours northwest of Newcastle on the New England Highway and you’ll discover Aberdeen.

Nestled amongst sweeping plains, coalmines and power stations, the small Upper Hunter Valley town is the perfect snapshot of our working-class region. 

It’s also the hometown of injured Knight Alex McKinnon, a proud product of the mighty Aberdeen Tigers. 

Today we’re on deck at the ground where Alex first made his name, McKinnon Oval – a field fittingly named after his grandfather, Mal.  

On this particular occasion though, you’ll find Newcastle legend Danny Buderus holding court in the middle of the ground.

Surrounded by hundreds of school children as part of his series of coaching clinics, Buderus talks to enthusiastic youngsters about everything from excelling at dummy half through to dinosaurs.   

The Club legend also raises the topic of Origin, a subject particularly close to his heart as a former New South Wales skipper.    

"So is everyone happy about the Blues finally winning Origin kids?," Buderus asked a captivated audience.  

It's a response that mostly comes back with overwhelming support for Laurie Daley's men, except for one cheeky kid in the back corner.    

'No I support Queensland'," the boy smiled from ear-to-ear.  

"Why would you do that?, Buderus pondered with a shake of the head, to which the boy replied . . . "Because they've got better theme parks!"

Buderus may not have received complete agreeance on Origin, but he certainly did when it came to local lad McKinnon.    

When he asked the children who their favourite player was, they passionately responded in unison..."ALEX!!!"     

It was a reaction that warmed the heart of Buderus, a bloke who not only considers Alex a great teammate but also a great friend.

"I think Alex's situation has not only captured the sporting public, but also the general community in all towns," Buderus says.

"That's especially the case for the younger kids, who see him as a role model and an inspiration.

"It's more than rugby league to those kids, because Alex is someone that they can look up to." 

On top of rubbing shoulders with the Aberdeen locals, Buderus also had the chance to pass on his vast knowledge of the game to the kids.

From how to run the perfect line through to correct passing and tackle technique, the former Blues and Kangaroos star gave the kids the ultimate education on all things rugby league.

"It’s been a great day with a lot of kids and smiling faces," he said after the clinic on Monday.

"They all want to learn and there were some really good players.

"This is our heartland and our nursery for the Newcastle Knights and it’s something that we want to get back to.

"I’m sure you’ll see some more Alex McKinnon’s coming down to the club soon.”

Aberdeen club president Pete Emery was thrilled to have Buderus on deck for the day, a player held in high regard by everyone in the passionate league and Hunter heartland. 

"It’s not every day that Danny Buderus or people of that calibre come to Aberdeen," Emery said.

"So when something like that happens, it’s fairly special. 

"It’s a good day and we’ve had a fair bit of support for Alex here with the fundraising as well as 260 kids for the juniors and Danny’s clinic."

Emery described the community support for McKinnon in the wake of his devastating spinal injury as 'overwhelming', but completely expected given the quality of Alex as a person.       

"We have our presentation night at the end of every season and every year Alex has made sure gives us a kit for the boys," he reveals.

"So training gear with shirts, shorts and even his junior Kangaroo gear he was willing to give to the kids.

"It’s pretty special to give those things away."

Emery says the Aberdeen community will be out in force at Hunter Stadium next Sunday when the entire NRL unites as one for RiseForAlex Round against the Gold Coast Titans.    

"It will be a big game," he enthused.

"Hopefully we can get a lot of Aberdeen people down there.

"Our under 8s are going to play a curtain raiser on the day, so we’ll get as many of us down there as we can to support Alex."