Lodge no certainty for NRL return
Broncos legend Darren Lockyer has urged prop Matt Lodge to not risk his knee if it is not up to the rigours of the NRL as D-Day arrived for Brisbane's front row enforcer.
Lodge will undergo a fitness test at training on Sunday as he strives to face Parramatta in Thursday night's NRL season relaunch.
The COVID-19 shutdown of the NRL season was a silver lining for Lodge in his attempt to recover from a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) suffered on the eve of pre-season trials.
The injury generally requires surgery and a nine-month recovery which would have ruled Lodge out of the entire 2020 premiership.
Lodge, 24, rolled the dice and opted to rehabilitate the injury without surgery, adopting radical methods like mental visualisation and infra-red sauna to aid his recovery.
He received the okay from his surgeon to resume training last week and is on the cusp of being cleared to face the Eels at Suncorp Stadium.
But with the Broncos to play at least 18 straight games without a bye before the finals series, Lockyer said Lodge should not rush back into the NRL if he has any doubts over his knee.
"I'm hoping (he is cleared), but if waiting a couple more weeks will give him a lot more certainty around being there long-term then I don't think there's any need to take the risk," said Lockyer, Brisbane's most-capped player.
"By all reports he's tracking well. If he and the specialist feel confident if they give it a couple more weeks it will strengthen it more, then it's probably wise to go down that path.
"He had two options - get it repaired and the season is over or wait six-eight weeks and see how it settled down.
"If it hadn't got back up to speed he could get it repaired and be right for round one next year. From that perspective it was good to have options.
"Now he's very close to being confident that it will be okay long-term. I don't think there's a need to take any unnecessary risks."
Lodge's return would be a huge boost for the Broncos as they seek redemption against Parramatta following last year's 58-0 finals drubbing.
The Broncos started the season in hot form, winning their opening two games against the Cowboys and Rabbitohs before the competition was suspended.
Young gun Thomas Flegler was sensational starting in the front row in Lodge's absence and it's likely he will partner Payne Haas in the starting side even if Lodge is cleared to play.
Lodge is expected to make his return from the bench, playing 30-40 minutes, as coach Anthony Seibold looks to usher in Brisbane's engine-room leader.
Originally published as Lodge no certainty for NRL return