UNDER SCRUTINY: Matt Lodge (right) at Broncos training.
UNDER SCRUTINY: Matt Lodge (right) at Broncos training. DARREN ENGLAND

Lodge receives backing from Broncos

RUGBY LEAGUE: The Brisbane Broncos have attempted to draw a line under the Matt Lodge affair as he prepares to make his NRL comeback under extreme scrutiny.

Lodge hasn't played a first-grade game since June 2015 but he'll be under the microscope when he runs out for the Broncos against St George Illawarra in Thursday night's NRL season-opener in Sydney.

Debate has intensified in recent days over whether the 22-year-old should be allowed to play, following release of CCTV footage of the drunken, violent New York City rampage that led to his sacking by the Wests Tigers.

The NRL has given him the green light to play for the first time in nearly three years and it seems they will not change their stance despite the recent outcry.

Assistant coach Kevin Walters indicated Lodge was coping well at training despite huge external pressure.

"There's been a lot of pressure on him from a playing point of view from everyone outside the Broncos about how he's going to perform or if he's going to play,” Walters said on Big Sports Breakfast.

"It's up to Matt, I guess, to get himself right and ready for Thursday night.

"Obviously Matt has had some issues off-field in the past but that hasn't affected anything he's been doing from a football point of view here.

"He's working hard to try and fix those problems but exactly where that's at at the moment, I'm not too sure.

"There hasn't been, from a coaching point of view, any distractions around the group at all.”

Brisbane captain Darius Boyd dead-batted a question today over whether Lodge should make a public apology to the family he attacked, who say Lodge has shown no remorse.

"I can't comment on that. It's something that happened a couple of years ago,” Boyd said.

"All can speak of is how Lodgey's been at the club the last 18 months and he's been nothing but a respectful, humble guy.

"He's working very hard, goes to uni, all that type of stuff.”

Asked if it was a concern to have the controversy hanging over the team ahead of their first match of the new season, Boyd said: "It's something you'd have to ask Matt.

"At the end of the day, we're here to play rugby league. That's our job. We can't focus on things we have no control of. The past is the past and it is what it is.”

AAP


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