Matt Lodge hopes to draw on his own off-field battles to help others. Picture: Getty
Matt Lodge hopes to draw on his own off-field battles to help others. Picture: Getty

Lodge: ‘I could help more than the average person’

Controversial Broncos prop Matt Lodge has thrown his hand up to help stop the NRL's player behaviour crisis.

The NRL's off-season from hell hit a new low on Friday when Manly's Dylan Walker became the second player stood down under the code's "no fault" policy as he faces domestic violence charges.

At least 15 NRL players have been involved in off-field incidents, some incurring serious criminal charges, since the end of the 2018 season.

At this time last year, Lodge was engulfed in his own scandal following a massive public backlash as he prepared to ­return to the NRL after a near three-year hiatus.

Lodge was banished from the NRL following an alcohol-fuelled rampage in New York in 2015 and only allowed back after completing extensive rehabilitation.

Now 23 and a father, Lodge believes he has overcome his behavioural issues and wants to help stop the NRL's crippling problem.

"I don't know about being a poster boy (for second chances) or if I'll ever get there," Lodge told The Courier-Mail.

"But I might be able to do work with people that need second chances or have done the wrong thing. I could help them out more than the average person.

"I'll take the lessons out of it. I've learned from it and can pass that on to some people and help some younger people to make sure they don't make poor decisions.

"They are pretty costly now in the game.

"You do the wrong thing and you're going to pay for it."

In some ways Lodge is lucky he was accepted back into the game when he was.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg had a busy week handing out sanctions to various players for off-field indiscretions. Picture: AAP
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg had a busy week handing out sanctions to various players for off-field indiscretions. Picture: AAP

The ARL Commission and NRL chief Todd Greenberg drew a line in the sand on Thursday by announcing a new policy which allows the code to stand down players facing serious charges.

Lodge escaped jail in New York after pleading guilty to a misdemeanour count of reckless assault, but the current climate surrounding the NRL suggests he would have faced an even tougher battle to be welcomed back now.

Lodge played all 25 games for the Broncos last year and was one of the club's best in his debut season in Brisbane.

He says he has abstained from alcohol since his New York night of shame and wants to be an example for his fellow players.

"I regret what happened, but at the same time I was going down the wrong path and that helped me get to where I am now and going down a good path," he said.

Manly Sea Eagles player Dylan Walker was the first person stood down under Todd Greenberg’s new discretionary powers. Picture: AAP
Manly Sea Eagles player Dylan Walker was the first person stood down under Todd Greenberg’s new discretionary powers. Picture: AAP

"I guess I could be (a good example). I was patient and committed when I was out for three years to get back to this level. Hopefully that counts for something and I can help some people that are struggling."

The Broncos' botched handling of Lodge's return, where the club initially refused to let him speak publicly or explain his rehabilitation process, created a storm of controversy on the eve of the 2018 season.

Lodge was booed with every touch of the ball early in the year, but withstood the public backlash to secure a two-year contract extension and edge towards NSW State of Origin selection.

"It was more tough for my family," Lodge said.

"I had some good people around me looking after me.

"It didn't really affect me too much. I was comfortable with what I was doing.

"I didn't really mind what people wrote.

St. George Illawarra Dragons player Jack de Belin is facing serious sexual assault charges. Picture: AAP
St. George Illawarra Dragons player Jack de Belin is facing serious sexual assault charges. Picture: AAP

"I was more worried about my family reading it, they were pretty upset at the time.

"I had some good people around me like Wayne (Bennett, former coach) and the boys were really supportive.

"It didn't matter what anyone did, they were going to stick by me. This year I can just put my head down and do my job without people watching.

"I can do what I can to get better as player."

The NRL's new policy came on the back of the game suffering immense reputational damage. Sports stars have long been considered role models, but Broncos coach Anthony Seibold said that shouldn't be the case.

"I'd hate to use our players here at the Broncos as role models," he said.

"They have an obligation to uphold the standards of our game and our club, but ... the best role models in our society are parents."

News Corp Australia


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