Alex and Teigan McKinnon’s love story captured the hearts of Australians when she pledged to stand by the NRL star after he broke his spine in a three-man tackle.
The fallen player underwent operations to fuse his C4 and C5 vertebrae and spent five days in a coma before he was left wheelchair bound at 22.
The day after he woke up, doctors gave him the shattering news that he would likely remain a quadriplegic and never walk again.
His girlfriend, who was only 20 at the time, vowed to support him throughout his recovery.
‘How can you go from loving someone for them getting injured and then saying I don’t love them anymore?’ she asked at the time.
Two weeks after the accident, the former Newcastle Knights and St George Illawarra player proposed to her from his hospital bed.
He vowed to stand up at their wedding – which is exactly what he did during their fairytale nuptials in 2017.
Alex McKinnon was spotted for the first time since the break-up on Tuesday (pictured)
Newly-separated Teigan McKinnon was seen walking down the street with her daughter Harriet on Monday (pictured)
Alex and Teigan McKinnon (pictured together) were together for 12 years and married for five
The newly-paralysed athlete has admitted he dealt with a lot of rage following his injury, but the couple defied the odds.
They had their first little girl, Harriet Ann, via IVF in 2018, followed by twins Audrey Jill and Violet John in 2021.
However, on Sunday – after speculation as to why Ms McKinnon was not wearing her wedding ring in recent Instagram photos – it was announced that their love story secretly came to an end four months ago, in January.
The pair said the split was amicable. The real reason remains unknown.
As they’re pictured separately spending time with three-year-old Harriet near their respective homes in Newcastle, Daily Mail Australia takes a look at the couple’s tragic love story.
Pictured: Alex McKinnon with his father – days after his split from Teigan McKinnon was publicly announced
Alex McKinnon was seen spending quality time with his three-year-old daughter Harriet (pictured)
Alex McKinnon (pictured with his daughter) became a quadriplegic after a dangerous tackle during an NRL game in 2014
High school romance
Alex McKinnon and Teigan Power met at a friend’s birthday dinner at Denman Bottom Pub, in the picturesque Upper Hunter Region north-west of Sydney, in 2010.
He was 18 said it was ‘love at first sight’, but the 16-year-old schoolgirl wasn’t so sure.
‘We hit it off straight away, feeling very comfortable around each other,’ Ms McKinnon previously told Body and Soul.
‘We were friends for about a year before we started dating.’
When they officially started seeing each other in 2011, the aspiring footballer would drive five hours from Wollongong to Denman every weekend to see her because she was still in high school.
‘We knew from then we wanted to be together forever,’ she said.
They didn’t start dating until a year after they met, but Mr McKinnon said it was ‘love at first sight’
The couple first hit it off in 2010 when they were introduced through mutual friends at a New South Wales, Upper Hunter Region pub
Mr McKinnon started playing NRL for the Newcastle Knights in 2014, at the age of 22.
He played 49 games before tragedy struck in round-three match against Melbourne Storm on March 24 of that year – as soon as he hit the ground, he knew his life was about to change.
‘I knew straight away,’ he told ABC journalist Stan Grant in 2020.
‘I remember hearing the noise, I remember trying to move but not being able to, I remember playing surrounding me and looking at me – clear conversations, I could hear everything.
‘I really just felt embarrassed … I suppose it takes you back to being a man and what your identity is there – strong, unflappable, unwavering – I just felt that it was embarrassing that I was laying there, unable to move, and I just felt like a real failure.’
Alex McKinnon is pictured playing NRL before a tragic accident rendered him paralysed
The young athlete, who had been in the prime of his career just days prior, had an operation to fuse his C4 and C5 vertebrae, as well as having a bone graft from his hip to support his neck – and battled to stay alive.
Five days later, he woke up to a medical practitioner pricking him with a pin to determine where his paralysis began and classify the injury.
On the sixth day, doctors at The Alfred Hospital gave Mr McKinnon, his parents and girlfriend the devastating news that it was very unlikely he would ever walk again.
In his emotional biography, Unbroken, Mr McKinnon wrote: ‘I began to yell and sob as tears streamed down my face.’
‘I’m f***ing over this,’ he yelled to his parents.
‘I don’t want to be here, this is making me sick to my stomach, why can’t I just die? Why can’t you just kill me? Why are you going to put me through this? How can you let me live like this? Is it just for you? I’m happy to die. I want this over.’
McKinnon, 23, suffered two fractured vertebrae in a tackle while playing The Melbourne Storm in March, 2014 (pictured in hospital)
‘Teigan loved me still’
Despite his physical and emotional trauma, Mr McKinnon knew he wanted to be with his girlfriend for the rest of his life.
He had been planning to propose for months, but after his injury he knew he couldn’t delay it any further.
Ms McKinnon told Body and Soul that he popped the question just two weeks after the accident: ‘I had flown back in from Newcastle and went straight to Melbourne hospital to see him.’
‘His parents made the excuse that they were going out for dinner and then Alex and I were talking and he very romantically asked me to marry him.
‘I, of course, said yes! I was very blown away and surprised. I knew before the injury that I wanted to marry Alex so I was thrilled that he finally had asked me.
‘How can you go from loving someone for them getting injured and then saying I don’t love them anymore?’ Teigan Power asked Alex McKinnon
He said it was ‘like a dream come true’, and promised to stand up as she walked down the isle.
60 Minutes reporter Liz Hayes interviewed the couple the following year in 2015, when they were 21 and 23, and realised she had ‘underestimated that young people had been capable of deep and mature love’.
Mr KcKinnon caught Ms Hayes by surprise when he said one of his blessings was that ‘Teigan loved me still’.
His fiancée replied: ‘How can you go from loving someone for them getting injured and then saying I don’t love them anymore?’
Ms Hayes described their relationship as ‘extraordinary’.
Alex McKinnon said the moment Teigan agreed to marry him was ‘like a dream come true’
‘They had grown to know each other, they were already living together, no doubt it is a case of starting again in navigating a relationship when one partner is so dependent on the other,’ she said.
‘He needs daily care and so as not to have some live in person, it is up to Teigan is going to feed him and there are other things.
‘She is central to his well-being and she knows that and they work together, that is very grown up.’
The young man was so determined to use his legs again that he defied odds by standing up just 10 months on from the accident and, three years later, he managed to walk with the assistance of physical therapists.
Sure enough, In 2017, Alex McKinnon married Teigan Power at Peppers Creek Chapel in the NSW Hunter Valley.
Tears flowed as the 25-year-old rose to his feet and exchanged vows at the private reception, surrounded by 150 of their closest friends and family.
‘I was pretty shocked to tell you the truth. I couldn’t believe Alex stood for all that time,’ Ms McKinnon told New Idea at the time.
Tears flowed as the 25-year-old rose to his feet and exchanged vows (pictured)
‘It was lovely to be able to look him in the eye, rather than looking down at him in his wheelchair. It just made the ceremony that much more intimate.
‘We started crying every time we caught each other’s eye. It was beautiful.
The day before the wedding, he wrote on Instagram: ‘Dreams do come true.’
‘Together we had the best day of our lives on Sunday, I can’t wait to share the photos and videos with you all.’
In a similar post, his bride wrote on social media: ‘Tomorrow is the day we say ”I do” to the rest of our lives.’
Pictured: Teigan McKinnon on the day she married Alex McKinnon in 2017
‘I want to be a dad’
In the Australian Birth Stories podcast in 2018, Ms McKinnon revealed that she and her then-husband started seeing fertility specialists in 2015 – the year after he proposed.
She loved children and Mr McKinnon was an only-child and was eager to have a big family, but they didn’t know if they would be able to conceive at all due to his impaired spinal cord.
‘The level of his injury meant that he didn’t have any movement voluntarily from his chest down, and that can affect your sperm and the mobility of your sperm,’ she explained.
The couple announced via social media in March 2018 that they were expecting their first child
Mr McKinnon (pictured with wife Teigan and daughter Harriet) always wanted a big family because he was an only child
‘They said Alex’s sperm was really healthy, but his mobility was quite low so the chances of us falling pregnant naturally without intervention was about five to ten per cent.’
They saw specialists in Sydney and Newcastle to get an idea of what to expect, but they didn’t actively try to conceive until about four months before the wedding in 2017.
When that didn’t work, the specialist referred them to an IVF clinic.
Ms McKinnon’s pregnancy test came back positive after the first round, and Harriet was born the day before the couple’s first wedding anniversary.
In 2021, they celebrated the arrival of twin girls Audrey Jill and Violet John.
Former footy star Alex McKinnon and his wife Teigan (pictured with daughter Harriet) announced they were expecting twins in 2021
Teigan McKinnon is pictured with her twins Audrey Jill and Violet John who she shares with her now ex-partner Alex
On April 24 this year, rugby league journalist Danny Weidler sent shockwaves through the community when he revealed the couple separated in January – four months earlier.
The announcement followed a number of comments on Ms McKinnon’s Instagram account asking why she wasn’t posting photos of her husband anymore, and why she wasn’t wearing her wedding ring.
‘There is no ill will between the pair, who privately concede that after 12 years together, from the time they were high school sweethearts, they are now more likely to find happiness on their own,’ Mr Weidler wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘They are committed to co-parenting their children and they will do so as friends.’
But while the journalist said the ex football player ‘has no issue with the story being written’ about them, Ms McKinnon criticised how the story had come out ‘without our consent’ in an Instagram story.
The couple (pictured at their twins’ birthday on Saturday) issued similar post break-up statements, with one major difference
Mr McKinnon made a statement (pictured) similar to one his ex-wife wrote announcing their split
‘At this time, Alex and I are navigating this period of change together privately,’ she wrote on Sunday.
‘Due to our situation being made public without our consent, we are asking for our privacy to please be respected at this time.
‘We are together concentrating on protecting our family and children. We have the utmost respect for each other, and are both very grateful for the people, as well as all of the support that we have in our lives.’
Ms McKinnon posted a photo of herself at a wedding in March (pictured) – without her husband
Mr McKinnon also posted a photo of himself at the same wedding – without his wife
Mr McKinnon issued a statement on the same day but, unlike his former partner, did not say intimate details were spilled without permission.
He wrote: ‘Due to our situation being made public, we ask that you respect out privacy as we concentrate on our family and children, as they are our main priority.’
On Monday, Ms McKinnon was spotted for the first time since the devastating break-up was announced – wearing a purple top and white jeans with her eldest daughter Harriet, who was riding a tricycle down the street.
Mr KcKinnon was spotted spending quality time with Harriet and his father on Tuesday.
Alex and Teigan McKinnon: From high school sweethearts to co-parenting three little girls
2010: The pair met through mutual friends at a pub in 2010. Alex McKinnon said it was ‘love at first sight’, but she said they were friends for a year before they started dating.
‘I was there for a friend’s birthday dinner and we hit it off straight away, feeling very comfortable around each other. We were friends for about a year before we started dating in 2011,’ Ms McKinnon previously told Body and Soul.
The aspiring football player lived in Wollongong but made the five-hour trip to Denman, in the NSW Hunter Valley, every weekend to see his girlfriend – who was still in high school.
2011: The lovesick teens officially start dating.
2014: Mr McKinnon started playing for the Newcastle Knights in 2014, at the age of 22. He played 49 games before a dangerous tackle during a round-three match against Melbourne Storm in March that year changed his life forever.
He fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae and became a quadriplegic.
Three weeks after the accident, he proposed to Ms McKinnon – who pledged to stand by him throughout his recovery. Their love story captivated Australia.
2015: Mr McKinnon publicly thanked his then-fiancée for her ongoing support.
‘Happy Valentine’s Day babe,’ he wrote on Instagram.
The last year has challenged us a lot more then we would of every imagined, yet we’ve become so much stronger then ever before. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without you, I love you a fair bit @teiganpower.’
2017: The happy couple got married in an intimate ceremony in the NSW Hunter Valley in October 2017.
Mr McKinnon had promised his bride that he would rise from his wheelchair when he popped the question, and he did just that at their wedding.
The day before the ceremony, Ms McKinnon wrote to her followers on Instagram, ‘Tomorrow is the day we say ‘I do’ to the rest of our lives.’
2018: Ms McKinnon gave birth to their first daughter, Harriet Anne.
2020: They announced that Ms McKinnon was pregnant with twins in November.
2021: Twin girls Violet and Audrey were born in April.
2022: The couple quietly broke up in January.
Mr McKinnon shared a post of him and Ms McKinnon celebrating their twins’ first birthday on April 23.
The following day, their separation was made public in the Sydney morning Herald.
They vowed to continue supporting each other and co-parenting their three daughters.