The Warriors have defended their decision to grant Matt Lodge’s release despite revelations the prop will be paid as much as $700,000 to not play for the team for the rest of this season.
Club owner Mark Robinson described it as “a simple business transaction” while CEO Cameron George .
Lodge was spotted playing rugby union for North Brisbane’s second grade team on Tuesday night with the side losing 27-14 to Bond. He didn’t just play a small cameo either with Lodge reportedly on the field for almost an hour.
The 26-year-old doesn’t have a documented history in rugby union. An official code switch would be dramatic but not unprecedented. The fact he’s without a contract and played a club game seems rather curious considering the ramifications for his own future if he did get injured.
According to a Daily Telegraph report, he will pocket $700,000 from the Warriors after gaining his release last week irrespective of whether he ends up at another NRL club or elsewhere.
Robinson weighed in to say he’d had an argument with Lodge late last year and the prop never got over it, leading to his mid-season request to leave.
George initially refused to comment on the payout due to the agreement being confidential between the player and club. He then fronted the media on Thursday.
“I don’t know whether we ever moved on from it,” George said of their verbal exchange.
“Maybe he didn’t want to play for Mark Robinson any more. Mark has to accept that. Not every player does and will in the future.
“We just sensibly sat down and worked out a way forward and that’s where we landed (by buying out his player option). Matt’s really happy, I’m really happy and I’m happy because Matt’s happy.
“If people want to be here they’ll get rewarded and be looked after and if they wish to move on and we feel that’s the best thing for the club, we go in a separate direction.
“Absolutely don’t regret signing Matt Lodge. I got to know Matt quite well; him and his family are wonderful people and Matt’s a hardworking person.”
Robinson added: “He was unhappy so I bought him out of his option for next year and we parted ways. He didn’t like the club and he obviously didn’t like playing for Mark Robinson. I got over it, but I can’t answer for Matt Lodge,” Robinson said in the News Corp interview.
Panthers deputy chairman Greg Alexander on SEN Radio on Thursday morning could not believe the Warriors would dish out a small fortune to Lodge when he was only contracted for 2023 if he took up a player option in his deal. He had earlier rejected a three-year extension on the grounds that he did not want to relocate from their temporary base of Redcliffe to Auckland.
“We can’t get our head around why the Warriors have had to pay him out if he had a player option,” he said.
“They were prepared to sign him for another three years so it wasn’t as if they wanted to get rid of him. They wanted him for another three years and he said I’m not taking up that option, I’m not moving back to New Zealand, I’m out.”
Des Hasler is set to cop a hefty fine over his referee rant following last Friday’s dramatic loss to Parramatta and prop Josh Aloiai could also be sanctioned after doubling down on the Manly coach’s comments.
Hasler claimed the match officials had “legged” the Eels back into the contest in the lead-up to Will Penisini’s try a couple of minutes from full-time sealing a 22-20 come-from-behind triumph.
In yet another strange Hasler moment, he claimed at his captain’s run media conference on Wednesday that he “couldn’t remember” what he’d said about the refs five days earlier and that he “wouldn’t have said anything controversial, that’s for sure”.
He said he had spoken with the NRL to clarify his points of contention and he had asked for inconsistencies around high tackles and offside rulings to be reviewed.
The NRL is set to hand down a five-figure fine to Hasler, who has a lengthy history of questioning the integrity of referees.
While not wanting to discuss the specifics of Hasler’s case, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said referees needed to be shown more respect.
“It’s important for a professional sport for everyone – whether it’s the players, the coaches, the administrators, the fans – everyone needs to have a level of professionalism and a level of respect for the match officials,” he said while launching Indigenous Round.
“They’re not perfect, they do make mistakes and we have to keep it all in perspective.”
He added coaches and players “set the example for what happens across fields across Australia at a mass level. There will be decisions that go against you, I understand how much is at stake and the passion everyone has for winning. But I think everyone needs to accept there are things that we do say and can say, and there are things we don’t say.”
Hasler was furious over a late penalty against Christian Tuipolotu which preceded Parramatta’s final set.
“It wasn’t high. It was a good tackle. It was a brave tackle. They’re called a try save. The idea of the game is defence and the idea of a try save is to come up with big plays,” he fumed in the post-match media conference.
“It was a great play. It just adds to the disappointment on the result on the back of a 9-2 penalty count. They got legged back into the game.
“Some very dubious calls … I’m sure Benny (referee Ben Cummins) will review his game.”
Front-rower Josh Aloiai on Tuesday told reporters at a Manly media session that:
“I thought we were pretty hard done by, for the most part. The ref done us no favours, particularly in the back end of the game. I think he done a bad job and we didn’t get away with the win. So I’m pretty unhappy with him, to be honest with you.”
Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves escaped suspension for his foul-mouthed blow-up last weekend and his coach Trent Robinson claimed frustration at referee Gerard Sutton was justified.
Robinson argued his star prop was a target for officials, and it was only his expletive delivery that let him down on Saturday.
Waerea-Hargreaves was sin-binned for twice swearing at Sutton in the Roosters’ 32-12 loss to Penrith, but the veteran forward was only fined $1800 after the Match Review Committee handed him a grade one contrary conduct charge.
Collecting James Fisher-Harris high as the Panthers prop crossed to score late, Waerea-Hargreaves exploded as he was called out to be placed on report and told Penrith would be awarded a potential eight-point try.
Abdo also rejected the latest installment of critics claiming the bunker should be blown up by saying “there’s not a professional sport in the world that doesn’t use technology to assist in getting the balance right between accuracy and continuity”.
He said the use of 360-degree angles from replays of multiple cameras gave officials a much better chance of getting decisions correct.
The Dolphins are continuing to build an impressive forward pack for their debut NRL campaign, adding Warriors second-rower Euan Aitken.
Aitken, 26, had already announced he would not head back to Auckland for the 2023 season and he won’t have to move far at all, remaining in the same Redcliffe base the Warriors have played out of through the COVID period.
He joins a Dolphins forward pack that already includes Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi.
Aitken, whose deal with the Warriors was initially due to expire at the end of next season before he secured his early release, said his decision was about putting family first.
“If it was up to just me I probably would have gone (to NZ) and seen out the contract because I do like the club, it’s got some great people and it’s got some great people running the place,” he told reporters.
“So there’s definitely some fond memories here and it’s definitely a hard decision to leave because there’s definitely great people and it’s going to go places in the near future.”
Dolphins chief executive Terry Reader said the 143-gamer’s experience would be vital in building the new club.
“Importantly, he is skilful enough to play either centre or on the edge at second row, and that is a valuable commodity in today’s NRL competition,” he said.
“He will also be able to bring some familiarity around our home base for our new squad after spending a full season training and playing there with his current club.
“Euan and the Warriors are currently three wins from three games at our home base of Moreton Daily Stadium this season – we hope he can see the same results with the Dolphins next year.”
It’s another blow to the Warriors’ forward stocks having cut prop Matt Lodge last week, although they will gain Newcastle’s Mitch Barnett in 2023.
They’ll also be without Chanel Harris-Tavita, who will take a break from the game after this season.
The Cowboys’ ladder surge has as many as 10 players in the mix for State of Origin selection.
Reuben Cotter, who will start in the front row against Penrith, and second-rower Jeremiah Nanai have reportedly caught the eye of new Queensland coach Billy Slater.
Experienced forward Coen Hess, whose last of six appearances came in 2020, is another hoping to hear from Slater when he settles on his 22-man squad after Round 12.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi, Heilum Luki and Tom Gilbert are also in Queensland contention while Reece Robson and Jordan McLean are outside chances to make the NSW squad.
“The club’s in a really fortunate position, I think we’re going so well that heaps of names are getting thrown into the hat which is really exciting,” Hess said.
“The way that I got selected in the past was just worrying about club form and playing well so that’s where my head space is at.
“Having had experience, if I was lucky enough to get selected I’d be more than comfortable doing my job.”
Preparing for an epic battle against Penrith, North Queensland are keeping the blinkers on rather than worrying about what the premiers may throw at them.
The Cowboys head to BlueBet Stadium on Friday night riding high after six successive wins to move to third on the ladder, while the front-running Panthers have back-to-back NRL premierships firmly in sight.
Hess has been tasked with replacing injured superstar lock Jason Taumalolo while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has come in for Kyle Feldt, who also has a knee injury.
The pair went down early in North Queensland’s statement win over fellow heavyweights Melbourne last round.
Hess has been playing mostly as a front-rower this season but said he wouldn’t try to change too much at lock.
He said they would try to focus more on themselves than on their opponents after finding success in the method last round against the Storm.
“I remember when we versed the Roosters (in round four), we were more worried about them where as going into the Melbourne game last week, we just focused on us and what we need to do well and executed that,” the 25-year-old said.
“There will probably be a similar thing going into the Panthers game.
“We know what they can do – they’ve got strike power all over the field and if you focus on too many of their players, you get caught up in what you’re doing.”