An emotional and grateful Wayne Bennett has praised the rugby league community for its unprecedented support of injured Knight Alex McKinnon, admitting he has never been prouder to be associated with the game.
Speaking after the Club's 22-8 loss to the Titans at Hunter Stadium, Bennett thanked the entire code for coming together to make McKinnon's homecoming so special.
As of full-time on Sunday, a combined total of 1.1 million dollars had been raised for the RiseForAlex Fund - a figure that brought a smile to the face of the supercoach.
"I just want to thank everybody," an emotional Bennett told a packed press conference.
"The response has outstanding everywhere we have been and the generosity has been magnificent.
"I’ve always been proud to be a part of the game, but I’m more proud of it this week than I’ve ever been.
"Because it’s certainly the first time in my history in rugby league that we’ve done something like this.
"And have an injury like this in my time, which has been 28 years now. So I just want to thank everybody, the people of Newcastle have been outstanding.
"It was pretty moving before the game there when Alex came onto the ground and their response to him. I thought those sorts of things inspire you a little bit. Well they do me anyway, but we are all different.
"And the amount of money they have raised here and given. There is $30,000 odd dollars here today just on the wrist bans and the donations alone.
"So I couldn’t be more proud the city and the way that they’ve got behind him.
"As I said, particularly the reception they gave him. It brought a tear to his eye and it’s the first time I’ve seen him with a tear since it has all happened."
Five-eighth Jarrod Mullen says the sight of McKinnon showing emotion before the match was certainly difficult to watch.
"It was definitely tough," Mullen said.
"When the crowd went up I had a quick look over at Macca and as Wayne said, he was shedding a tear. It was very hard for me to see that and it was very emotional.
"But it’s good to see that he is doing well."