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New Zealand Warriors owner Mark Robinson has revealed an argument between he and Matt Lodge at a pub late last year planted the seed for the 26-year-old's controversial exit from the club.
Lodge was paid $700,000 by the club after being released from the remainder of his contract, which included a player option for the 2023 season.
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His reluctance to relocate his family to New Zealand when the Warriors return home for next season was reportedly the driving force behind his decision to leave the club, however Robinson suggested there was more to the story on Thursday.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Robinson revealed he and Lodge had a heated argument at the Belvedere Hotel in Redcliffe last December.
Robinson said he and Lodge had shook hands and agreed to move past the conflict soon afterwards, but said it soon became clear that the damage had been done and the club was better off cutting their losses.
“We had an argument in a hotel, two alpha males in a pub last December,” Robinson said.
“Two days later we shook hands and moved on but it never came right.
“He was unhappy so I bought him out of his option for next year and we parted ways.
“He didn’t like the club and he obviously didn’t like playing for Mark Robinson.”
The decision to pay out Lodge has raised plenty of eyebrows in the NRL world.
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.”
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Despite the criticism, Robinson was adamant. the Warriors had done the right thing by Lodge in paying out the remainder of his contract.
This comes despite Lodge publicly stating himself that he did not want to go with the club when it returned to New Zealand next year.
“It was a simple business transaction," Robinson said.
"He had an option for next season so he was entitled to a severance package, as would any employee out there who has a contract with their employer.”
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.
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.”
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