Robbie Rochow’s main motivation to play his best footy this weekend is to make his teammate proud as the Newcastle Knights and the entire NRL community celebrate the RiseForAlex Round.
The Knights are ready to face the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday at Hunter Stadium in front of a close to capacity crowd as the game honours a injured Alex McKinnon.
“I’m just happy to be there and hopefully play my best footy and make Alex proud on the day,” the 23 year-old forward told the media on Thursday morning.
“It is a big week for Alex.
“It’s highlighted this week how much support he’s going to get, it’s great for him."
Rochow denies the added emotion will impact on his game and say’s the team is focused, as it has been since Alex’s injury, on playing it’s best and earning another win.
“It will be more emotional because we’ll see that on the day and we’ll see how many fans have turned out.
“I think at the end of the day we have to perform well."
“We might feel that presence a bit early in the game but once we start playing we’ll be fine,” he assured.
“It’s been emotional for us for the last few months ever since his injury.
“It’s no different for me than it has been any other game this year.
“I’ve felt his (McKinnon’s) presence in every other game that we’ve played.
Rochow believes the anguish felt immediately following McKinnon’s injury, when his teammates didn’t know how he was, has now passed.
“It was a lot about the unknown,” he said
“Now we’ve been around him, we know he’s going to be okay.
“We know what type of mindset he’s in and we’ve had a chance to speak to him.
“This week is no different than the last few weeks for me.
“There’s been a lot of pressure on a lot of game we’ve played recently
“I think there’s just a pressure to perform because we want to make Alex proud.
“And that’s been our mindset ever since he got injured."
The Knights have maintained momentum, stringing together a third win when they defeated the Sharks in Cronulla last weekend.
"We’ve felt so much better about ourselves and as a playing group after the last three or four games.
“We want to keep that going and perform well so we feel better about ourselves and, especially for Alex.
As one of Alex’s close friends, Rochow is overwhelmed and delighted by the support that has flowed from all corner of the community for his teammate since his injury.
“The whole NRL is behind Alex and we’ve seen that through the amount of players that have been getting behind it.
“Each Club is really doing their part and showing how much they support him.
“It’s just amazing how much support he’s been getting.
“I’m just hoping we play well and he enjoys his day and realises how much this town’s behind him and how much we as a playing group are as well.
Rochow insists the Knights will not underestimate the Titans and expects a challenge despite the side recording one win in its last eight games.
“You can't lose that many in a row and not be desperate to win one.
"It’s going to be like any other week, there’s no push overs in this comp.”
Rochow expects the week to mean a lot to Alex, and the experience of returning home to be at the game to be an emotional one.
“He’s a really strong person but given this situation, I don’t know how he'll feel.
“I know he’s a strong person, he may shed a tear and get a little bit emotional but he’s going to be there on the day and it’s going to be a great day for him,” he said.