Graham's classy gesture for under-fire Lodge

James Graham showed his class in his first game for the Dragons with a brilliant gesture for Broncos counterpart Matt Lodge.

Lodge endured an up-and-down night in the Broncos' 34-12 loss to St George Illawarra on Thursday night, the prop's first game back since having sat out more than two years since his infamous New York rampage that landed him in Rikers Island jail.

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The subject of intense scrutiny for the past month, Lodge topped the running metres for the Broncos but threw an intercept pass for a Ben Hunt try, dropped a simple ball early and gave away a penalty for a high shot on James Graham.

Jeered and abused by the Jubilee Oval crowd every time he touched the ball, Lodge also bore the full brunt of Tyson Frizell's shoulder in his first hit up, which gave Brisbane their first penalty.

And while Lodge was a marked man during the game, that wasn't the case after full-time.

Graham tackles Lodge. Image: Getty

Dragons recruit Graham was seen chatting to Lodge after 80 minutes had expired, later revealing he wanted to welcome his opponent back to the NRL.

“I’m just personally glad to see him back and I mean that,” Graham told Triple M.

“He’s done his time, whatever with the law and all that.

“Rugby league is a game that brings out the warriors of our society and you have to take the rough with the smooth.

“I’m really pleased to see him back.”

Lodge's drama-filled return was the best thing that could happen to him, according to coach Wayne Bennett.

"I wasn't disappointed with Matt," Bennett said.

"He had to start somewhere. We got him on the footy field tonight and got him playing football.

"He just needs to play football. He's played football tonight for the first time in three years and that's the best thing that happened to him."

Lodge's return overshadowed much of the lead-in to the season-opener, given he still owes $1.6 million in damages to his victims of the 2015 incident, for which he pled guilty to a misdemeanour reckless assault charge.

The 22-year-old broke his silence in an interview aired the day before the Dragons match, where he apologised to the victims and claimed he has since been reformed.

However, his intercept pass rightly handed the spotlight rightly back to the man who Thursday's season-opener should have always been centred around in Hunt.

The former Broncos half set up the opening try against his old club, before he admitted he recognised Brisbane's play and ran 50 metres to score the match-sealing try just as they threatened to mount a second-half comeback.

with AAP