Lodge hype grows after Brisbane debut
TRY as they might, Brisbane can't play down Matt Lodge's NRL return any longer after the giant prop's stunning club debut.
Lodge monstered the Gold Coast pack but impressed most with his sharp ball handling to inspire the Broncos' 38-10 thrashing of the Titans in Toowoomba on Saturday night.
Brisbane assistant Kevin Walters did his best to cut through the hype to relieve any pressure on Lodge after the ex-Wests Tigers prop's first game for an NRL club in almost three years.
But it seems plenty will be jumping on the Lodge bandwagon before their March 8 NRL season kick-off against St George Illawarra.
"We understand Matt's pathway is going to be a long and hard one but he started with a good performance," Walters said.
Brisbane's six premierships have been built on dominant props such as Glenn Lazarus, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva.
However, Walters baulked when asked if Lodge could be the big man Brisbane had been waiting for to break their 12 year premiership drought. "It's the first trial of a long season," he said.
"Look, he was impressive. He is a big lump of a lad.
"He said he wasn't too nervous ahead of the game but I think he might have been but he got himself into the game from the kick-off with a strong carry." Lodge bullied the Titans defence from the outset and clicked quickly with fellow bookend Sam Thaiday.
Brisbane raised eyebrows when they signed Lodge on a 2018 deal when the front- rower was cleared by the NRL integrity unit two years after being deregistered over an alcohol-fuelled rampage in New York.
Lodge avoided jail in the United States after pleading guilty to reckless assault for the October 2015 incident but was hit with a $1.6 million damages bill.
Thaiday - who skippered the trial team - believed Lodge showed he was ready to repay Brisbane's faith.
"He's been itching for a long time to get that Broncos jersey. He definitely wanted to prove a point," Thaiday said.
Lodge and Thaiday are hoping to nail down the starting front row against the Dragons after Brisbane lost Adam Blair, Herman Ese'ese and Jai Arrow in the off- season.
Fijian international prop Korbin Sims is also coming back from a broken arm. Backrowers Jaydn Su'A and Dave Fifita put their hand up against the Titans for Brisbane's three vacant bench forward spots.
But impressive Brisbane No.7 Kodi Nikorima believed Lodge was the highlight. "He really stood up. I am happy to have Lodge in the side - he adds another dimension to our team," he said.