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NRL NEWS: 'We believe in our Roosters culture' - Robbo explains Lodge deal, O'Brien fumes over Ponga bunker call

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30th June, 2022
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Trent Robinson is adamant the strength of the Roosters’ culture can not only handle a combustible character like Matt Lodge but he also believes the club can help the former Warriors prop achieve his potential.

The Roosters are close to finalising a deal with the 27-year-old front-rower with Robinson saying he was hopeful of Lodge playing for their feeder team North Sydney in the NSW Cup next week with a view to being in the NRL side for the following round against the Dragons.

“The timing for us as far as length of contract and then the need for us to get a bit bigger coming off the bench, with just a few injuries in that area,” he said. “That was the need there and also we thought we were in a strong enough position, culturally, there to bring Matt in and do like we’ve done to other players and bring them in, and support them in our environment.

“You’ve got to work out what’s the culture for. Is it to build a brickwall around and protect it at all costs or is it there to develop and progress people, me included and all players and staff. And that’s what a culture really does.

“We believe in our Roosters culture and what we believe in and it’s there to support and we’ve done that in the past and we’ll keep doing it.”

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 02: Matthew Lodge of the Warriors is tackled during the round four NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos at Moreton Daily Stadium, on April 02, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Robinson said Lodge was “a more mature guy” in the discussions he’s had recently compared to previous meetings with him.

“He’s open about the stuff that he has done in the past,” he said.

“I’ve met (Lodge) before … I saw a more mature guy in the discussions that I had, a father of two with another one on the way … (there’s) a vulnerability there about where he’s at in his footy and also a desire to still deliver.

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“We believe in where we’re going at the back end of this year, so we’re going to keep putting the foot down and head towards that.

“He is a big middle forward, he’s a powerful carrier with good ability to pass and he’s got a good vision for the game as well … they’re the traits that we wanted.”

Robinson also confirmed Joey Manu would play at five-eighth for the Roosters in their blockbuster clash with Penrith on Friday night as they look to reverse a worrying 1-4 recent record.

The Tricolours have plummeted out of the top eight into ninth spot with a 7-8 record and go into the clash with the premiers without veteran playmaker Luke Keary, who has been out since the head knock he suffered against Melbourne earlier this month.

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Keary suffered five head knocks between 2018 and 2019 and the Roosters are determined to take a cautious approach to his fitness. Drew Hutchison was named to slot in at five-eighth in his absence but the Sydney Morning Herald first reported that Robinson will start the match with Manu alongside Sam Walker with Paul Momirovski recalled at centre.

Victor Radley will make his return from an ankle injury at lock.

Joseph Manu scores a try.

Joseph Manu scores a try. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Manu was superb for New Zealand last weekend when given a chance to play at fullback and he’s seen as wasted somewhat at centre for the Roosters.

“Being back home, playing international league again … it was special,” Manu said. “I love running with the ball, I got to do that … at fullback so it was pretty fun.”

Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich was in awe of Manu’s performance, running for a record-breaking 398 metres in New Zealand’s 26-6 Pacific Test win over Tonga in Auckland.

“It’s just crazy. I thought his performance was right up there with the fullbacks I’ve ever played with,” he said.

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“He’s a different sort of body, beating defenders one on one and bringing the ball back with aggression. It’s really nice to see as a forward seeing a kick go over and then having your fullback flying back, getting rid of people whenever he felt like it.”

O’Brien unhappy with bunker’s Ponga call

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien insists Kalyn Ponga isn’t headed for long-term concussion problems, and says his star fullback would have been ready to face Gold Coast on Friday night if not for NRL protocols.

Ponga passed a HIA after State of Origin II but the Bunker deemed his head knock a category one concussion, with the mandatory seven-day layoff keeping him out of action this weekend.

But O’Brien expressed his frustration the bunker’s judgement was backed over a doctor’s, and denied Ponga was developing a pattern of concussions similar to Sydney five-eighth Luke Keary.

“The first process for us is let’s go and clear all that up with the specialists that know a hell of a lot more than me, and that should clear the rest (up),” he told reporters.

“He passed the assessment with the Queensland doctor after the game … number one for me as a coach, but then also as someone that cares about him (is) he was OK.

“The frustration is the people that are actually talking to him and doing the assessment don’t get the final decision.

“We’ll send him off to the specialists and make sure everything’s right, but he’s in there and I had a chat … he seems pretty good.”

The Knights (4-10) could have done with their No.1 for their clash with the Titans (3-12), although centre Bradman Best and front-rower Daniel Saifiti are expected to be named in the 17 from the reserves list.

O’Sullivans signs with Dolphins

Sean O’Sullivan’s move to the Dolphins next year has been confirmed, with the Penrith back-up handed a chance to finally own an NRL playmaker’s jersey at the new club.

The 23-year-old, whose father Peter is the Redcliffe-based club’s recruitment manager, has played 25 NRL games since his debut in 2018.

At the Sydney Roosters, Brisbane, Warriors and Panthers, O’Sullivan has been a handy back-up but Dolphins boss Terry Reader said he now had the chance to “make one of the club’s halves positions his own”.

“He showed last year with the Warriors that he was a quality playmaker, and he has backed that up with his performances for the Panthers this year,” Reader said of O’Sullivan, who has won four-of-four games deputising for Nathan Cleary this season.

“Our coach Wayne Bennett is especially pleased to finally be able to coach one that got away from him.

“He recruited Sean to a contract with the Broncos before he moved to the Rabbitohs, and now he will get to work with him in a new team.

“Sean fills a major need on our roster and we look forward to seeing what he can do in the Dolphins’ colours.”

O’Sullivan has signed a three-year deal and will join fellow Panthers Isaiya Katoa and Rob Jennings at the new franchise in 2023.

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