Broncos prop Matthew Lodge showed time and time again in 2017 that he was too good for Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup. That came during a time in which he was banned from restarting his 12-match NRL career.
In Saturday night’s return to NRL company in a trial match against a Gold Coast Titans side with little hardened NRL talent, Lodge faced a similar standard of opposition to that which he monstered last year.
However, Brisbane’s chief playmaker on the night, Kodi Nikorima, and stand-in coach Kevin Walters welcomed what the 22-year-old offered following his reinstatement by the NRL.
Lodge, listed on the Broncos’ website at a weight of 121kg but expected to play at around the 115kg mark, is still an open book for Wayne Bennett, who has effectively recalibrated several wayward talents over the years.
A 40-minute stint in front of 8000 people at a country ground in Queensland’s Darling Downs was a suitable low-key setting for Lodge to wear an NRL jersey for the first time since arrested in New York on charges of assault and stalking in 2015.
He’d love to stay under the radar and let his football do the talking for a while longer yet.
“He really stood up,” said Nikorima, while Walters assessed “I thought he was impressive; he’s a big lump of a lad.”
“He keeps telling me [that] without his ball playing, nothing would come off the back of that,” quipped Nikorima.
“He adds another dimension to our team. The game has changed now, you need quick play the balls and Matt Lodge gives us that.”
Walters conceded Lodge was nervous prior to kick-off, but he found the right antidote – ripping in from the start.
“He said he wasn’t too nervous before the game but I think he was, and he got himself into the game from the kick-off with a pretty strong carry,” Walters said.
“That’s what he is there for, to cart the ball forward, and I thought he did a good job of that.”
In the same context, Walters was keen to ward off any over-hype of Lodge’s regional re-appearance at the top level.
“It was a trial in Toowoomba against a Titans side that had very few first grade players in their ranks.
“We understand Matthew’s pathway is going to be a long and a hard one … but he started with a good performance.”