Broncos prop Matt Lodge credits Wayne Bennett for saving his rugby league career but said that they were now "all square" as he targets getting one over his former mentor on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old will lead the Broncos pack against Bennett’s Rabbitohs after a strong display last week against Cronulla on his return from a throat injury.
Lodge, who spent two years out of the game in the wake of his drunken rampage in New York in 2015, has turned his life around and is now one of the Broncos leaders.
Lodge said head of football Peter Nolan organised a meeting with Bennett to kick-start his comeback to the NRL, via the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Intrust Super Cup initially in 2017. Now he wants to spoil Bennett’s night at ANZ Stadium.
"I'm always thankful to Wayne. It took a lot of guts to give me a chance and everyone saw the criticism that came from it," Lodge said.
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"He was great for me but I feel like I repaid him by playing well every week and I reckon that's all he wanted from me.
"It's an even playing field. He signed me and I stayed loyal to him. We're square. I love Wayne, but I would love to get one over him as well. I want the win."
Lodge said he would always respect Bennett and said he had modelled his own life on the way his former coach conducts himself
"Wayne is just an inspiration because he sets good examples in life. He doesn't drink, he is very disciplined, he still trains himself, and that discipline rubs off on people who need some direction in their life," he said.
Lodge signed a two-year extension with the Broncos late last year after Bennett had left for Souths.
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"I had big offers elsewhere. I just felt like I owed the club for what they did for me. I enjoy working with the boys and we've got a good pack," he said.
"I like leading the pack. I stress the fact no one can be good by themselves, we need to work for each other and that's when people get individual praise.
"We’ve finally got everyone together in the pack and it's not just me, Payne [Haas] and Tevita [Pangai].
"We have quality coming off the bench. Everyone knows that if we do our role and work hard for one another we will come over the top of some teams. We will have our tough nights as well.
I'm always thankful to Wayne. It took a lot of guts to give me a chanceMatt Lodge
"A few games we haven’t had a lot of possession and that takes its toll with all the defending, but we have to learn to get tougher as a group."
Lodge said he idolised Souths captain Sam Burgess and was inspired by the England international playing with a fractured cheek to star in the 2014 grand final.
“That symbolises what he is about. Sam Burgess is probably my favourite player. He is, in my opinion, the closest thing to an Immortal so it is going to be great to run out and challenge him and see where we are at because he is probably the best forward in the game," Lodge said.
"You’ve got to pinch yourself when you get to play him.
"It's a massive test, they are on a roll and Wayne is doing a good job with them. It's a bit of a danger game for us. We need to get into a bit of form and they are in form, so we have to go down there and stick it to them."
Lodge has fully recovered from the throat injury that kept him out of the clash with the Raiders a fortnight ago.
"I had some blood clot lumps inside my throat which if they get hit can be dangerous to breathe. They have gone down and I just have a bit of damage to the cartilage,” Lodge said.
"It's all good. Lucky I'm not a singer. I got a forearm from Ben Matulino. I lifted an elbow and it got me in the throat.
"It was a bit sore, I couldn't breathe properly and that's why I couldn't play [against Canberra]. It would have been hard for me fitness-wise."