Bondi rescue: How Lodge almost joined Roosters
Reformed rugby league bad boy Matt Lodge has revealed how secret talks with Roosters coach Trent Robinson was the catalyst for the NRL lifeline that delivered him to the Brisbane Broncos.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the contract machinations that saw the Roosters go within a whisker of trumping the Broncos for Lodge's signature as the 117kg enforcer fought to reignite his career following his infamous New York rampage in 2015.
Lodge returns from a two-match suspension on Thursday night at the SCG and it is fitting he should confront the Roosters for it was the Bondi glamour club that initially offered the NSW Origin hopeful a shot at NRL redemption.
Lodge revealed for the first time on Wednesday that he met with Roosters coach Robinson.
The year was 2016, a time when Lodge was on the scrapheap playing park football in Sydney's west, 12 months after he was arrested at gunpoint by American police following his infamous alcohol-fuelled night out in New York.
Lodge lauded the support of Robinson, but his move to the Roosters collapsed when the club considered the lengthy battle ahead to have the then troubled teenager registered by the NRL integrity unit.
Adding to the complexity, the Roosters were determined to avoid further damaging headlines after the off-field scandal earlier that season involving star halfback Mitchell Pearce, who checked into a Thai rehab clinic.
That opened the door for former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett to pounce, but Lodge hasn't forgotten Robinson's role in bringing him back to the NRL - culminating in their SCG showdown on Thursday night.
"I had a meeting with Trent Robinson," Lodge told The Courier-Mail.
"I sat down with Trent and he was really good to me. He gets results and while I haven't played under him and don't know too much about him, at that point it was pretty flattering because not too many people were interested in me.
"My manager sorted out the meeting. At that moment in time, any club would have appealed to me.
"I didn't know why the Roosters pulled out in the end. Maybe I was too much for them to take on with everything that happened (with his New York arrest).
"I had a good chat with Trent ... I guess he opened up a little pathway for me."
Enter Bennett. Just weeks later, the super coach met with Lodge at Brisbane's team hotel just 24 hours before an away clash against South Sydney, now Bennett's current employer.
One impediment to Lodge joining the Roosters was a stipulation that the prop would have to embark on a three-hour round trip to train with feeder club Wyong on the NSW Central Coast.
But after a candid chat with Bennett, Lodge had to accept there would be no simple route back to the NRL.
He accepted the 12-month contractual lifeline with Brisbane's affiliate club Redcliffe which ultimately paved the way for Lodge to seal his future at the Broncos.
"I'm glad I decided to follow a path to the Broncos," Lodge said.
"Being from Blacktown, it would have been easier to stay in Sydney (and play for the Roosters).
"I grew up with family and friends and I've learnt to deal with the move now.
"I get back to Sydney a fair bit with the playing schedule and the Broncos are pretty flexible in letting me catch up with family.
"To be honest, I was a little bit worried about getting back into the NRL. I was trying to do the right thing and when the word gets around that you are doing the right, there were a couple of clubs who, thankfully, were going to take a punt on me."
Now Lodge is primed to topple Robinson's Roosters, and Broncos coach Anthony Seibold backed him to stand up to the premiers.
"It's a really good challenge," Seibold said.
"Any time you play against the premiers, you want to benchmark yourself against them and we have some young men here who want to benchmark themselves.
"'Lodgey' has been missed the past two weeks, he was our best player against the Storm.
"The Roosters have a pretty formidable middle so Lodgey is a key part of our pack to get on top of those guys."