ADAM CUTHBERTSON knows all about personal tragedy in the sport of rugby league.
Admittedly, the Leeds Rhinos prop cannot begin to contemplate what the family of Danny Jones, the Keighley Cougars stand-off who tragically died from a cardiac arrest while playing on Sunday, is currently suffering.
However, the Australian forward – who has shaved his trademark beard and long hair to help raise funds for the 29-year-old’s loved ones – knows just how supportive the game can be in such awful circumstances.
Cuthbertson was actually on the pitch when Newcastle Knights team-mate Alex McKinnon broke his neck in a tackle during an NRL fixture last March, the 22-year-old subsequently being told he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
“I was right next to Alex when it happened,” Cuthbertson recalled to The Yorkshire Post, ahead of tomorrow’s game at Widnes Vikings.
“I know first hand what people can do. Obviously Danny’s situation is far worse for the family – it’s so tragic losing a life – but I was there first hand with Alex and saw the effect that had on the NRL and rugby league in general.
“His family and friends... I saw how they all got behind him and stuck with him so I think for me it was a learning curve.
“A lot of people that never actually knew Alex went out of their way to help out and I suppose that’s a similar process I was thinking of here.
“I didn’t necessarily know Danny but he was a football player and the character of football players I know through and through.
“They are champion blokes and I want to help out as much as possible.”
Cuthbertson, along with similarly hirsute players Craig Huby (Huddersfield Giants), Kyle Amor (St Helens) and Tyrone McCarthy (Hull KR), all agreed on Twitter to shave their beards if fundraising passed £25,000. And their heads, too, if £35,000 was reached.
Those totals were surpassed within just hours of the fund being set up – the total last night had remarkably soared towards £90,000.
“It’s definitely a heart-breaking story,” added Cuthbertson, who has been a revelation for Leeds since his move over in 2015.
“As soon as the other boys Tweeted me about it to get together and maybe create some awareness for the fund by shaving our beards – which we find quite iconic – we thought we might get it moving a bit.
“Hopefully that’s what we’ve done and it is such a good cause.
“It’s overwhelming to see how much has been raised so far.”
Back home in Australia, meanwhile, McKinnon, defied the odds to actually stand on his own in January and there are hopes he will, indeed, walk again.
But Cuthbertson said: “I saw someone during the week – Anthony Quinn – who has a lot to do with Alex and did from the time it happened. There was a lot of progress at first and I think it’s just come to the stage now where it’s a bit more slow and steady, taking every day as it comes.
“But from where it was to now is massive.”
On the field, Super League leaders Rhinos are looking for their first win in three matches after seeing their lightening start ease off with defeat against Warrington Wolves and last Thursday’s draw at Huddersfield.
Widnes sit second-bottom in the table but agonisingly came within seconds of beating derby rivals Warrington on Sunday only to see Joel Monaghan score a match-winning try for the visitors in the game’s final play.
Cuthbertson, 30, expects Widnes to respond after that setback and said: “Every win is vital, especially against such a good team as they came up against last week.
“You’d be gutted to lose any week but to be in that position and then lose on the buzzer... well, they are going to be a tough force to beat this week especially being at home as well
“We are a bit disappointed with the last two results but coming out of the success of the Easter period – we put a lot of focus into that – then one loss and a draw is a big deal but nothing we can’t rectify going forward.”