Matt Lodge will be in Warriors colours by the weekend as his immediate move will see Brisbane to contribute close to $1 million of his wage over the next two and half seasons.
Just days after Broncos coach Kevin Walters said Lodge would be staying put for the rest of 2021, negotiations around an early release for the 26-year-old gathered pace this week with the Warriors announcing the deal on Thursday afternoon.
Lodge will not play for the Broncos this week in Sunday’s clash against Cronulla, instead joining the Warriors’ Terrigal camp over the weekend with plans to be available for their round 17 game, also against the Sharks.
NRL.com understands that Lodge’s Warriors move will involve the terms of his first 2023 player option at the Broncos being taken across to the Kiwi side.
Lodge’s Brisbane contract ranks as one of the most lucrative for a prop in the NRL, and it’s understood the club will contribute almost a seven-figure sum to his Warriors wage should Lodge take up his player option after 2022.
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Lodge thanked Broncos supporters in the club’s release announcement on Thursday, having made the most of a rugby league lifeline at Red Hill when 2015 assault charges in New York threatened his NRL career.
“I’ve always tried my best for the club and for the jersey,” Lodge said.
“I’d like to thank everyone at the club including the fans and sponsors who have helped me along my journey in recent years.”
His release, even with the significant freight Brisbane will pay, allows Walters and new football director Ben Ikin to realign a salary cap that has been badly bent out of shape by big-money, long-term deals.
Lodge’s move to the Warriors was formalised on the same day as Kurt Capewell’s signing from Penrith for next season.
Capewell’s three-year deal is in its own right a significant coup for Walters.
The Queensland Origin utility’s commitment to Red Hill until the end of 2024 saw him knock back the Panthers’ own short-term retention bid, a similar offer from the Cowboys and the chance to link with a prospective Brisbane expansion team.
The rapid-fire roster movements however come in stark contrast to Walters’ comments earlier when in the week, when he declared “no one’s going anywhere”.
Walters specifically said he had told Lodge and fellow forward Tevita Pangai jnr that they would both be “staying here”, in a bid to “get some security, some safety around the players on their futures”.
But with both players being given permission to negotiate moves for 2022 and beyond, the reality is discussions around Lodge’s exit continued behind closed doors, resulting in an early release that has been touted since February.
“In recent days an opportunity has emerged the satisfies both the club and Matt, and while it is not ideal for players to leave during the season, we believe this result is the right one for both parties,” Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy said.
“Stability is important for our squad and our club but so too is making the right decisions for the long term, and sometimes those decisions aren’t easy.”
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Capewell’s signing is the third major acquisition for next year at Red Hill, joining Rabbitohs captain Adam Reynolds and Storm outside back Brenko Lee on Brisbane’s books.
For the Warriors, Lodge joins a prime beef front-row rotation that already includes Tongan internationals Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila.
NRL.com understands Murdoch-Masila has also taken up a 2022 and 2023 player option in his own Warriors contract, that could have been triggered on personal grounds if he and his family struggled with the club’s COVID-19 enforced relocation to Australia.
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Lodge’s signing caps a helter skelter period for Warriors recruitment boss Peter O’Sullivan, who is the father of Lodge’s partner Jessica.
Mid-season recruits Chad Townsend and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will both turn out against the Dragons this Friday, while coach Nathan Brown hailed Lodge’s impressive form this season in a struggling Broncos side.
“Matt will add more experience and real size to further boost our front-row resources,” Brown said.
“We like what he has to offer us as a big body in the middle of the park with his ability to play big minutes and his impressive great work rate. He’ll be a great addition to our squad.”