The Phil Gould advice Matt Lodge is set to follow
Panthers supremo Phil Gould told Matt Lodge last year he owed it to the Broncos to re-sign with the club and it is a piece of advice he intends to follow as he prepares to take on his junior club on Friday night for the first time in three years.
The off-contract prop, in his first regular pre-game press conference at Broncos HQ this season, said he only wanted to play at Brisbane in 2019 and beyond.
In a Wide World of Sports column earlier this year, Gould said he had met with Lodge and was satisfied the former Panther had turned his life around after his infamous 2015 rampage in New York and outlined how he had told the prop he would be welcome back at Penrith in the future.
There was a caveat attached to that however, as Gould also told Lodge that "he owed first option on his services to Wayne Bennett and the Brisbane Broncos who had assisted him through the rehabilitation process and given him the opportunity to return to rugby league at Redcliffe. He agreed that was the right thing to do."
Lodge has no plans to return to Penrith but he does intend to keep his word.
"[Gould] has always been good to me. He’s kept in touch since I left. I’m at the Broncos and I’m going to stay here but it is good that I have his support," Lodge said.
"He’s always supported me and I am pretty respectful of that.
"[Brisbane] have been good to me. I’m returning the favour. They gave me the opportunity and hopefully I pay it back.
"From the top down they are all good people here. All the boys are good and we’ve got a good work ethic here. A lot of us are younger and we are just trying to get better. Everyone is on the same page."
Staying with a young and promising forward pack into the future excites the 23-year-old but he said the squad needed to improve mentally against the Panthers.
The Broncos had won seven from nine before Sunday’s dire 26-6 loss to the Warriors, which came after a 34-0 thrashing of the Titans.
"It was pretty disappointing," Lodge said.
"We thought we were getting into a bit of form and everything was right to perform well. We had a big crowd turn up, but we didn’t turn up and we got touched up.
"It is just a mental thing for us. We’ve got to turn up every week. We know we’ve got to be better than that."
Lodge said he had to get better as well and was yet to get on top of all the facets of front-row play required in the NRL.
"I’m not on top of it. I’ve still got a lot of stuff to work. I was out for a long time and there are a lot of things in my game that need improving," he said.
One of Penrith's in-form forwards, lock James Fisher-Harris, will be a familiar face for Lodge.
The pair played with each other in the Panthers under 20s and against each other when Lodge was a Junior Kangaroo and Fisher-Harris a Junior Kiwi in 2015.
Both have played all 17 Telstra Premiership games this year. "It is going to be a tough battle," Lodge said.
"He turns up every week and rolls his sleeves up and rips in. He’d been going real well so we will have our hands full.
“The [Panthers forwards] are powerful. I’ve watched a bit of them and they are playing for one another."