Lodge sacrificed $1 million to stay with Brisbane
Hulking prop Matt Lodge gave up $1 million to remain at the Broncos after rejecting interest from the Parramatta club he faces in the NRL's season relaunch at Suncorp Stadium.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Lodge's extraordinary financial sacrifice to stay loyal to Brisbane in the face of offers from the Eels and Warriors that would have made him one of the code's highest-paid forwards.
Lodge will make a stunning recovery from a serious knee injury and he is in good condition, having shaved 6kg from his 120kg frame to be ready for front-row fireworks against a monster Eels pack.
But if Parramatta had their way, Lodge would have been wearing blue and gold, with the Eels and Warriors last year tempting the off-contract bookend with offers in excess of $800,000 a season.
The 24-year-old seriously thought about quitting Brisbane.
A Blacktown junior, Lodge had family in western Sydney and had candid conversations with Broncos hierarchy about his future and Brisbane's plans for him.
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Lodge ultimately inked a multi-year deal with Brisbane worth $550,000 annually.
Over a four-year term, the $250,000 differential amounts to a seven-figure sacrifice, but Lodge says there were others factors, including Brisbane's lifeline when his career was in tatters after the New York saga in 2015.
"The Eels put forward a really good deal," Lodge said.
"I definitely put a lot of thought into going. I missed my mum and dad and friends, and I grew up just down the road from Parramatta. I do miss my family, and sometimes I wish I was closer to them.
"It's a tough conversation to have ... to walk into the Broncos club who has done so much for you and say, thanks, I'm leaving. I couldn't bring myself to say that to the Broncos.
"Brisbane is the best place for me at the moment and the Broncos stood by me during the toughest time of my life.
"I had some honest chats with the club and I felt it would have been premature to leave. I like the team we have got here, we all want that premiership, and I couldn't see myself in another jersey at the moment.
"I could have earnt more in Sydney but money isn't everything in this game. You have to be happy in this game as well and I'm happy at the Broncos."
After 14 weeks of rehab on his partial ACL tear, Lodge will start from the bench tonight, but is confident his right knee will hold up against an aggressive Eels pack led by 123kg giant Junior Paulo.
"It's unreal to be back," Lodge said.
"I was never going to rush it but I knew there would be a point where I had to stop worrying about my knee and just go for it.
"The Eels are a huge side and have a great forward pack. They will be up there for fighting for a premiership, so it will be a tough task.
"I've worked really hard on fitness and I've dropped down to 114kg. I've tested my knee out pretty hard in full contact sessions, so it's not a weakness for me anymore."
Originally published as Lodge sacrificed $1 million to stay with Brisbane