Broncos see shades of legends in Lodge
WAYNE Bennett has compared Matt Lodge to Broncos legends Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva as the controversial prop emerges as a key figure in Brisbane's quest to snap a 12-year premiership drought.
Lodge is in the mix to be crowned Brisbane's player-of-the-year following a sensational debut season at Red Hill which will result in his first NRL finals appearance.
Lodge will make his 24th appearance for the Broncos against Manly at Suncorp Stadium, joining Darius Boyd, Anthony Milford, Sam Thaiday and Jamayne Isaako as the only Brisbane players to feature in every game this season.
The 23-year-old front rower has overcome a tumultuous start to his NRL resurrection at the Broncos after being the centre of controversy on the eve of the season following a brutal backlash to his New York rampage in 2015.
Despite having only played 35 NRL games since debuting in 2014, Lodge has thrived in the front row furnace this season to become a crucial pillar in Brisbane's premiership tilt.
The Broncos have struggled to find outstanding front rowers since Queensland legends Webcke and Civoniceva lead Brisbane's engine room in the club's last premiership triumph in 2006.
Lodge has the potential to spearhead Brisbane's front row for the next decade and coach Bennett said he had the makings of an elite prop.
"He does remind me of Shane, (Brad) Thorn, Petero and all those guys," Bennett told The Sunday Mail.
"That's what makes them what they are. There are no soft options for those guys.
"They know that and understand that and that's the way they play their footy.
"He is an old school front rower.
"He takes pride in his work and knows he's got a tough job to play every week but he is happy to do that and play that role for the boys because that's what he sees himself as."
While Lodge was outstanding for Redcliffe in the Intrust Super Cup last season, he has surprised many with the speed of his transition back into the NRL.
He has averaged 47 minutes a game this season, running for 120m and making 21 tackles with little fuss.
Brisbane's front row muscle was questioned early in the season, but Lodge has risen to the challenge in his first season back in the NRL after a near three-year hiatus.
"He is a typical front rower," Bennett said.
"He is tough and can play with injuries. A lot of guys can't do that. He has had his injuries through the year but he has played with them.
"He was born to be a footballer, that bloke. That's what he loves doing. Nothing is going to stop him getting on the footy field.
"He puts his mind in a place that not many guys can do and plays with the injuries."
Lodge will confront Sea Eagles front row weapons Martin Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake today in a match which could decide whether Brisbane secures a home final next week.
Queensland great Billy Moore last week claimed Lodge should win Brisbane's Paul Morgan Medal this year and teammate James Roberts said the 121kg prop was ready to join him in a NSW Origin jersey next year.
"He has been awesome, he has been our best forward this season and our most consistent player," Roberts said.
"He would be my best player in the team this year. He has been wonderful.
"One hundred per cent (he is ready for Origin). He has been outstanding this year, his workload is crazy, on and off the bench he has stood up every week."
Lodge will start in the front row today alongside Thaiday in what could be the retiring forward's final appearance at Suncorp Stadium.
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