Broncos prop Matt Lodge and Eels halfback Mitchell Moses have played in some big games with and against each other but none as important as the elimination semi-final at Bankwest Stadium on Sunday.
Back in 2010 Lodge was a firebrand prop for the Penrith Panthers in the Harold Matthews Cup and steeped in the tradition of the western Sydney rivalry with Parramatta.
Lodge and his Panthers beat an Eels side containing Moses 22-10 in the grand final that year, but four years later in 2014 they made their NRL debuts for the Wests Tigers together against the Panthers after sharing the same dressing room in under 20s and rep footy.
There is always a fire in Lodge’s belly when he plays the Eels because he played against Parramatta sides a lot when he was a junior out at Penrith. He’s hoping to end good mate Moses’s season on Sunday once again.
"In under 16s we got one over him when they were favourites," Lodge grinned.
"It is a rivalry I’ve had since I was a kid. Mitch is one of my good mates and I have played a lot of footy with him before too. I played under 20s, junior reps and NRL with him at the Tigers.
"It is good to come up against him but only one of us will get the result on the weekend. That’s how it is and hopefully I walk away happier than him."
Lodge said the Broncos would target Moses, who has 24 try assists for the season.
"Mitch is on fire and probably our player to watch, and he’s earned that through his form all year," Lodge said.
"Once he’s got time on his hands he is one of the most dangerous halves in the comp and rarely makes the wrong decision.
"He has really taken off and done what he did as a kid. I always knew he had it in him. It is good to see him going well but hopefully he has a shocker on the weekend."
A shocker is what the Broncos had in week one of the finals series last year in a 48-18 loss to the Dragons. Brisbane's pack will need to take a leaf out of Dragons forward Tariq Sims’s book after he scored a hat trick in that clash at Suncorp and started the match on fire.
"I came off the bench that day and we were on the back foot after the Dragons started with real intent,” Lodge said.
"This is a good test for myself and for Dave [Fifita], Payne [Haas] and Joe [Ofahengaue] to see where we are at.
“Someone is always going to be rewarded by putting the effort in and being on that highlight reel for having a blinder and hopefully it is someone on our team.”
Lodge is locked in at the Broncos until the end of 2022 after rejecting overtures from Parramatta before he re-signed earlier this year.
It is the prospect of winning a premiership with the club that drives him.
"That is why I’ve played footy my whole life," Lodge said.
"You’ve got to put that premiership above rep footy. You work hard for 11 months, plus what you do in the off-season, to get that ring. It is something I am really jealous about when Andrew Fifita brings his to family parties and waves it around.
"I’d hate to retire without a premiership. That is one of my biggest fears. Hopefully we can get through this next game against Parramatta and get Tevita [Pangai] back and you never know."