2022-05-27 00:00:00

Mystery surrounds Matt Lodge’s next move — but it is expected that the big-name prop will land at a new NRL club before the end of the season.

Lodge was granted an immediate release from his Warriors contract last week.

The club statement claimed the reason behind the call was that the 26-year-old “couldn’t commit to a long-term future in New Zealand when we return home for next season.”

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However it’s since been revealed there was also a fallout with Warriors owner Mark Robinson.

There’s no real rush for Lodge on the financial front given the Warriors have paid him out in full for the remainder of this season and all of next — a total close to $700,000.

But yet his next move still took everyone by surprise.

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Just four days after the release, Lodge was spotted playing suburban rugby union for North Brisbane.

The coach told The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday that he may pick Lodge in Norths’ first grade side this week “but he might have an NRL contract by tomorrow or Friday… So we will wait and see.”

It raises the question, which NRL club will Lodge land at?

We can put a line through the Broncos given he was shown the door last July and probably the Knights too as they have filled their Top 30 already — unless they moved someone on to make room.

That leaves 13 NRL clubs. However it’s hard to see Lodge fitting into the Storm system, the Bulldogs are likely to sit still for now, and the Roosters have just upgraded an emerging forward with plenty of potential.

The Panthers already have plenty of options within their extended squad, while the Eels are in good shape for now and are also reportedly closing in on a young Penrith forward.

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MANLY SEA EAGLES

The rumour mill was sent into a spin when it was revealed Lodge and his partner bought a house in Bayview, on Sydney’s northern beaches. However it’s worth noting that property was purchased in January — four months before his release — and has been rented out since February.

Regardless, the link to Manly still seems the strongest.

The club has three roster spots left and the forward pack is quite depleted at the moment.

Taniela Paseka and Morgan Boyle are sidelined indefinitely with respective knee and ankle injuries, while Hasler turned to train-and-trial player Kurt de Luis to fill his bench this week with Martin Taupau and Ethan Bullemor out.

Manly have emerging props Alec Tu’itavake, Jacob Sykes and Viliami Fifita to lean on but they don’t have any NRL experience — or much reserve grade experience either for that matter.

There’s also the fact that Taupau won’t be at the club next season.

DRAGONS

The Dragons have two roster spots to fill and another front-rower makes sense.

Veteran props Aaron Woods and George Burgess haven’t exactly set the world on fire since joining the club.

Meanwhile, Daniel Alvaro was granted a mid-season release for a Super League deal and it seems Poasa Faamausili has fallen out of favour.

Utility forward Tariq Sims is off to the Storm next season and retirement may be on the cards for off-contract 32-year-old Josh McGuire at the end of the season.

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RABBITOHS

South Sydney have two spots to fill and with Jacob Host out for the season an extra forward might be a wise move in case more injuries hit and coach Jason Demetriou has to shuffle the deck chairs.

The Bunnies also need to fill the void that Mark Nicholls will leave when he heads to the Dolphins next season.

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TIGERS

It would be a full circle moment for Lodge after making his NRL debut for the club back in 2014, but after Thomas Mikaele was released to go to the Super League, the Tigers have a spot for a middle forward now — and in the future.

It’s unlikely James Tamou will extend beyond this season, the versatile Kelma Tuilagi is heading to Manly in 2023 and Joe Ofahengaue has a mutual option in his contract for next season.

TITANS

It’s understood Lodge wants to move closer to his family, in New South Wales, but given he’s already based up in Queensland the Titans might not be a bad option.

Herman Ese’ese and Jarrod Wallace both come off contract at the end of this season with the latter being linked to a move to the Dolphins.

An extra body up front now would be handy for coach Justin Holbrook too.

DOLPHINS

It’s a complicated option given the Dolphins’ commitments won’t kick off until pre-season starts in November, but it’s also an attractive option.

With a cool $700,000 in his back pocket, time is, in a way, on Lodge’s side.

He’s dabbling in rugby union for now to stay fit and could continue to do so until the end of the season.

However, according to reports, the Dolphins believe they won’t be able to afford Lodge given they’ve already forked out a lot of money on star forwards like the Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi.

But it would be naive to put a line through the expansion club when Wayne Bennett is at the helm. Bennett and Lodge have a good relationship from their time together at the Broncos.

Lodge’s father-in-law, Peter O’Sullivan is also head of recruitment and was a big factor behind Lodge’s move to the Warriors.

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Source by [graycupnews.com]

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