The transformation of Brisbane prop Matt Lodge has taken another step forward after he inked a new two-year contract with the club on Thursday.
The 23-year-old's signature follows hot on the heels of winger Corey Oates' one-year extension with the Broncos earlier in the week. Boom forward Tevita Pangai jnr is expected to follow suit in the near future as the Broncos assemble a squad they believe can challenge for a seventh title.
The NRL has a reputation for giving second and third chances to players who make mistakes and Lodge has made the most of his after reaching an agreement with the victims of his assault in New York in 2015. Five months ago Lodge confirmed he had taken out a bank loan to pay a compensation settlement.
In Lodge's case he was well aware this was his last chance saloon at the Broncos. The Brisbane hierarchy has noted his reformation has come not because of Lodge's fear of what the consequences would be if he slipped up again, but rather because he has embraced change and wanted to do so.
He has been sober for more than 1100 days and has been an active and keen participant in Brisbane's community program where he has done numerous school visits and warned students of the dangers of drinking alcohol to excess.
Matt Lodge re-signs with Broncos
Lodge, who had been on a one-year deal for 2018 in his return to the NRL, has always been grateful to former Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett for being in his corner but he has also said he owed a debt of gratitude to the Broncos club and to the fans.
That is why on re-signing he sent a message of thanks to the Broncos faithful on the club's website where he said their support was "a massive part of why I made the decision to stay in Brisbane".
"It's good to have some stability. I've made the decision to stay up in Brisbane and I'm happy with that decision and looking to put in some work with the group that we've got coming through to achieve what we all want," Lodge said.
"I'll always respect Wayne for giving me the chance to come back... but we're moving on now and we've got a new coach in Seibs [Anthony Seibold], training has changed and we've all on board with that and we're excited at what the future holds.
"It is something I have worked towards for a long time.
"I took the coaching situation out of it. Brisbane have got behind me, the fans and members. Everyone from the top of the club down have helped me out a lot and I took that all into account. I believe that once you have nothing you appreciate everything that comes your way."
Lodge was named in the emerging Blues squad recently with NSW advisor Greg Alexander telling NRL.com the front-rower had earned his selection after being Brisbane's most consistent forward in 2018.
He was runner-up to Anthony Milford in the club's player of the year award, the Paul Morgan Medal, and took out the gong for best forward at Broncos presentation night after playing all 25 games in 2018 where he averaged 130m, 11 hit-ups and 23 tackles per game.
"I am going to have to [improve] because the club has invested highly in some of our younger players," he said.
"I am 23 but one of the older ones in the forward pack and have to lead the way.
"I didn't have a pre-season last year and rolled into round one without doing the training with the boys. I am hoping  will be easier after some game time and hopefully I can get some more minutes.
"Three years out was a long time. The game got a lot faster and I probably got a lot slower so it is just a matter of bridging that gap."
Lodge said he was looking forward to attending a camp with the Emerging Blues on December 13.
"It will be good to go down with a couple of the boys in Kotoni [Staggs] and Payne [Haas] and hopefully we get something out of that experience," he said.
"I grew up supporting the Blues and watching every Origin. Hopefully one day that is a goal [to play for NSW]. He wasn't a prop, but Andrew Johns was my favourite, and [Danny] Buderus from the last of our glory days. I am just happy they won last year."
Off the field, fatherhood has also agreed with Lodge who is settled with partner Jess O'Sullivan and their son Coby.
"It's awesome. [Coby] just turned one a few weeks ago and he's running amok but I love it," Lodge said.
Lodge's progress has impressed club CEO Paul White who said the Broncos would continue to back him to the hilt.
"Matt continues to work on every aspect of his life both on and off the field, and he knows he has our full backing as he travels along that road," White said.
"He has taken some big strides this year through his dedication and hard work. We applaud what he has achieved and we welcome what is to come in the years ahead."