'Not lining up': Warriors' $700k payment for Matt Lodge under fire
NRL fans and observers have raised serious questions as to why the New Zealand Warriors paid out the $700,000 remaining on Matt Lodge's contract, despite it being his decision not to return to the club.
With the Warriors preparing to return to New Zealand full time next season after being based in Australia over the past two years to manage coronavirus restrictions more easily, Lodge refused to move overseas to continue his career.
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Lodge stunned the league by suddenly pulling the pin on his Warriors career last week, with the club agreeing to release the 26-year-old from his contract.
The Warriors paid out the $700,000 remaining on the deal in a move that has left many observers confused, given Lodge was the one who decided to pack his bags.
The surprise move has lead to some calls for the NRL Integrity Unit to become involved, with some suggesting it simply doesn't add up.
Fox League's Andrew Voss suggested there had to be more to the story, saying that as of now, the Warriors had effectively paid Lodge to go away.
“You can’t have a situation where the player has an option in their favour, declares they have no intention of living in New Zealand — therefore the option becomes irrelevant, it’s never going to come into play — and you still pay him for that," Voss said on SEN.
“I just say, we need to do more digging here. Something is not lining up.”
Making matters even more confusing was a report from the Daily Telegraph that the Warriors had earlier offered Lodge a lucrative three-year contract extension.
This offer was also knocked back with Lodge preferring to stay in Australia, but it was yet more evidence for former Panthers great Greg Alexander that something was not quite right.
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The Redcliffe-based Warriors and Lodge have mutually agreed to end their time together citing professional and personal reasons, with the player unable to commit to a future across the Tasman with the club.
"I couldn't see my family living in New Zealand for a long-term future," he said.
"Therefore we decided that the best thing for the club was for us to mutually part ways so they have some clarity."
His brief spell on the road with the Warriors ends a rollercoaster 12 months for the 26-year-old, who was engulfed in drama at the end of last season.
Alexander said it was clear the club didn't actually want Lodge to go, based on the multi-year deal they recently offered him.
In an appearace on Fox's NRL 360 program on Wednesday, veteran NRL scribe Phil Rothfield said the club's leaders, particularly chief executive Cameron George, had a lot to answer for.
“It still remains a $700,000 question mark,” Rothfield said.
“George won’t explain it to me … he’s hiding behind confidentiality clauses.
“There’s a lot of fans in New Zealand wanting to know why he got $700,000. It ruins their cap for the remainder of this year and next year.
“He has left the Warriors in desperate trouble.
“Those fans, those members, those sponsors deserve an explanation.”
George said Lodge's departure allowed them to move forward with planning and develop their younger players.
"We're grateful to Matt for the contribution he has made since joining us last year and wish him and his family all the best for the future," George said.
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