Matt Lodge and the Broncos land in Darwin for the clash against the Eels. Picture: Che Chorley
Matt Lodge and the Broncos land in Darwin for the clash against the Eels. Picture: Che Chorley

Bronco braced for Walters showdown

Matt Lodge is set for a showdown with coach Kevin Walters as the Brisbane enforcer looks for straight answers on unsettling rumours that he isn't wanted by the Broncos.

Lodge heads into Friday night's clash against the Eels at Darwin's TIO Stadium plagued by incessant uncertainty after six months of speculation about his future as Brisbane look to re-shape their roster under Walters.

Lodge's outstanding performance against Penrith last week - his best display in more than 12 months - could have been interpreted as an emphatic riposte to suggestions the 25-year-old is on death row at Red Hill.

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When Walters took charge last October, the Broncos made furtive inquiries about moving on the prop, only for Lodge's potential shift to the Warriors to collapse when they baulked at a hefty transfer fee.

Lodge was then buffeted by fresh transfer rumours before the Panthers clash when he was linked with the Cowboys, while Brisbane have been made aware another NRL rival inquired last week about buying the controversial prop.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters (left) wants to see more consistency from prop Matt Lodge.
Broncos coach Kevin Walters (left) wants to see more consistency from prop Matt Lodge.

Craving stability as he fights his way back from a horror 2020 campaign decimated by two knee injuries, Lodge is tired of the transfer talk and is hoping for a sign of unwavering commitment from Broncos bosses.

Asked how he would feel about being offloaded by the Broncos, Lodge was unequivocal ahead of his showdown with a monster Parramatta pack in Darwin.

"It's up to the Broncos what they want to do," Lodge said.

"To be honest, it's out of my hands.

"I'm just focused on playing good football, I have a contract here ... you have to ask them where things stand."

 

Kevin Walters. Picture: Peter Wallis
Kevin Walters. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

Cowboys football-operations chief Micheal Luck insists North Queensland are not targeting the Broncos bookend.

"We won't be signing Matt Lodge," he said. "We are looking at other areas of our roster."

Fuelling the speculation over Lodge is the composition of his lucrative deal.

The former Tigers and Storm prop is contracted to Brisbane until the end of 2022, but has a rare two-year option in his favour. That gives Lodge the power to exercise a clause that would keep him at the Broncos until the end of 2024.

Walters is juggling a salary-cap problem. He has no personal issue with Lodge but it is understood the Broncos ideally need to shift one middle forward to free-up some cash under the salary cap to fund recruitment targets in other positions.

As one of Brisbane's highest paid players on around $750,000 this season, Lodge naturally comes into the firing line, especially after a disappointing 2020 campaign that did not deliver bang for his big bucks.

Walters is hoping Lodge can stand up as Brisbane's engine-room leader and the Penrith junior, who plays his 70th NRL game on Friday night, is determined to be a worthwhile investment for the Broncos.

Matt Lodge and the Broncos land in Darwin for the clash against the Eels. Picture: Che Chorley
Matt Lodge and the Broncos land in Darwin for the clash against the Eels. Picture: Che Chorley

"I've never lacked any confidence," he said.

"That (last week's game) is the first time I've put three games together in nearly two years.

"I was just playing busted and playing with a broken leg, but I'm at a stage in my life where I don't care about criticism.

"I'm in a happy place and I love playing footy so the more I'm on the field the better my match fitness gets and the more I enjoy it.

"I can now start doing my job for the team and keep building on it.

"It's kind of a made-up thing (Lodge being a senior forward leader). I'm 25 years old, I missed four years of NRL.

"I'm still learning my trade. I don't want to be that big figure that leads everyone. I just want to do my job."

Originally published as Unsettling rumours: Bronco braced for Walters showdown