Broncos prop Matt Lodge played 12 NRL games for the Wests Tigers before his off-field issues.The NRL has defended its decision to register Matt Lodge’s contract but warned the controversial Brisbane prop he’s on his last chance.
Lodge has divided opinion after being thrown a career lifeline by Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and is set to resume his NRL career in 2018.
He was in danger of being banned for life after an alcohol-fuelled rampage in New York in 2015.
Similarly to Wests Tigers prop Russell Packer, Lodge was forced to spend a year in reserve grade before being allowed to sign with an NRL team.
He resumed playing with Brisbane’s feeder club Redcliffe last year and the NRL said he had exhibited a willingness to change and be rehabilitated.
However, the NRL said any further indiscretions would not be tolerated.
“The NRL has worked very closely with the Broncos through this process – the club requested a contract be registered last year but that request was rejected,” an NRL spokesman said.
“We have seen a huge change in him in terms of his attitude and determination to rehabilitate.
“Needless to say he needs to ensure there are no more transgressions. But all the signs are that he has changed his attitude.”
It emerged that the 22-year-old has yet to begin paying the $1.56 million in damages awarded in a US District Court case to the victims of his home invasion.
Lodge said he has turned his life around, sworn off alcohol and begun studying at university.
While his signing has polarised opinions, the 116kg prop shapes as a key recruitment for the Broncos, who have been criticised for lacking size over the past several years.
Broncos great Gorden Tallis said he believed Lodge could make a positive impact.
“He’s a big kid and everybody deserve a second chance,” Tallis told AAP.
“I’m not privy to all the conversations they had with (NRL CEO) Todd (Greenberg), whether he has ticked all the boxes.
“He did spend 12 months in the Queensland Cup, I didn’t hear anything bad come out.
“Does he have to spend 12 months or two years out of the game? That’s not my decision.”