Rugby reality check rekindles Lodge's fire

·4-min read

Heard the one about the man who was playing second grade rugby union in May and went on to win an Australian Test jersey four months later?

Matt Lodge isn't getting too far ahead of himself but it's a real possibility he could do just that.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga is a fan and Lodge's form is that impressive since arriving at the Sydney Roosters he is edging closer towards a spot on the plane for the World Cup in England next month.

If the Roosters have their way he will leave for Manchester with a premiership ring, too.

Lodge is undefeated in eight games for the Roosters and is enjoying a blossoming combination with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves which will be put to the test against South Sydney in Sunday's elimination final.

But how he got here, like most things with Lodge, wasn't straightforward.

The 27-year-old began the year with the Warriors, but after falling out with club owner Mark Robinson he found himself out of a job.

So on a wet Wednesday night in May he took his boots down to keep fit with Brisbane side Norths and ended up getting roped into a second XV game.

"They asked me to play and I said I wasn't registered so they got the iPad out and said I could do my rego there and then," he explains.

"I think from the time I signed up to 20 minutes before the game there were cameras and people everywhere.

"It was an enjoyable night. We had a beer after the game and they were going to work the next day and I guess moments like that make you appreciate weeks like this."

Lodge's reputation precedes him. His drunken rampage in New York in 2015 still casts a shadow.

The fact he was shown the door by both Brisbane and the Warriors in the space of 12 months gives credence to the perception that he is difficult and outspoken.

"I grew up as a fan and loved the game and I probably watched every game since I was four," he says.

"But the last year or two I probably switched off and haven't enjoyed it as much and I've kind of got that part back which is good.

"To be honest, I don't like bouncing around clubs - I actually did a four or five-year stint at the Broncos - and then when the Warriors didn't work out I moved quickly, but I don't like bouncing around.

"That's why when I quit there I didn't take the first thing possible.

"I knew I had to make the right move this time, not just go somewhere because the timelines matched up.

"It's probably a bit unusual, but I just wanted to sit and wait for the right place."

Lodge seems just as good a fit for the Roosters as they are for him.

When he arrived earlier this year the Roosters had just lost to Penrith in round 16 and were flagging in 10th spot.

His signing has breathed life into their forward pack and they finished the year in the kind of form which could result in them ending a 27-year hoodoo and winning the premiership from outside the top four.

Lodge's sole regret is that it took this long for him to come and work under Trent Robinson.

"It's probably been four or five years in the making," he says.

"Every time I was off-contract I was telling him (my manager) to ring them and they were keen but I got too good a deal at Brisbane.

"I nearly came here after that incident and out of school I nearly went to Melbourne."

With a contract signed until the end of this season, Lodge describes staying at the Roosters as the best-case scenario.

And as for the potential of getting an Australia call-up?

"It's a dream, you'd be lying to say it wasn't a dream as a kid to play for those teams," he said.

"But I think the first thing is getting some results at this club."