Matt Lodge has done his apprenticeship and has the attributes to make the Brisbane Broncos premiership contenders, insists legendary Redcliffe Dolphins prop Troy Lindsay.
The 22-year-old 118kg front-rower will make his Broncos debut in the trial with the Gold Coast Titans in Toowoomba on Saturday night.
Lodge, who last played in the Telstra Premiership for the Wests Tigers in 2015, was a standout performer for Redcliffe in the Intrust Super Cup.
Lindsay played a competition record 270 games and won five premierships with the Dolphins, and was named in the 20-year anniversary Cup team of all time.
“He is a big man, thick through the chest and just takes handling,” said Lindsay, a Redcliffe director these days.
“That is what is going to make him so good for Brisbane. If he plays his best football, I reckon without a doubt he will be their starting front-rower and will help them push for a premiership, if not this year then in a year or two.
“You’d nearly say he is a halfback in a front-rower’s body and offers you something extra with that, whereas your traditional front-rower is bash and barge.
“At times he probably tried to play too much football last year but Wayne Bennett will give him a role to do and that will be to get them forward.
“Guys like Josh McGuire and Sam Thaiday get through a lot of work but they are not big men. You need someone there bending that line and Lodge will do that.”
The Broncos starting props were 14th and 16th respectively in metres gained last year. Coach Wayne Bennett told NRL.com the style of play the props play would not change.
“Running hard, passing at the line, offloading, it’s worked well with our front-rowers and offers a point of difference up front,” Bennett said.
Lindsay said Lodge could so all those things but added he could learn from a disappointing display in last year’s Intrust Super Cup semi-final against the Sunshine Coast about finding a balance.
“He was wanting to play too much football and not lay a platform,” he said.
“The first couple of runs he busted them wide open and then started to play like a halfback and I thought if he’d gone back to what he was doing early Redcliffe would have been a lot better off, although all of them were woeful that day.
“He is only young but he has got to learn that you’ve got to lay a platform and do the hard work before you play football, and it might take you 60 or 70 minutes to do it too.”
Lodge was deregistered by the NRL after an alcohol-fuelled rampage in New York in 2015 but was given the green light by the NRL Integrity Unit to return to the top grade after transforming his life.
Lindsay said his Redcliffe experience was pivotal.
“It has grounded him a little bit more and given him an understanding of the grassroots,” Lindsay said.
“He probably thought he wasn’t going to get back to the NRL but the Intrust Super Cup has prepared him for that because you don’t get any easy games in the Cup. He worked for everything he got and no-one laid down and let him run over them.
“He has a real bright future, so long as he stays on track, but he was real good at Redcliffe last year and didn’t give any trouble.”
Sam Thaiday said Lodge would bring “a bit of size, a bit of aggression” to the Broncos.
“He’s a fantastic ball player as well. He’s going to give us a bit more creativity in the forward pack,” Thaiday said.
“He has been in the system last year and for a few reasons didn’t get a chance to run around.
“I am sure he is going to be itching to get out there and play and really prove a few people wrong.”