Embattled former New Zealand Warriors prop Matthew Lodge has moved to clear the air over his $700,000 golden handshake and decision to walk away from the club – revealing he was willing to stay for another four years before clashing with the team’s owner.
It was hard to tell which was the biggest bombshell for Warriors fan this week, Lodge pulling the pin on his time at the club with 18 months left on his contract or the Warriors electing to pay him out every cent he was due for that time.
That means that not only will the Warriors be without Lodge in 2023, they will have to wear his wages on their salary cap – making it hard to attract new talent.
Lodge has departed the Warriors effective immediately. He has been spotted playing second-grade rugby union in Brisbane and remains unsure what his next career move will be
Previously, Warriors owner Mark Robinson had said the duo had an argument at the Belvedere Hotel at Woody Point on Queensland’s Redcliffe Peninsula that ‘never came right’.
‘We had an argument in a hotel, two alpha males in a pub last December,’ Robinson told the Daily Telegraph.
‘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.’
But Lodge disputed that version of events, claiming Robinson was the only one speaking.
Lodge claimed he left the venue immediately and sought a meeting with the Warriors owner the next day, but it never happened.
‘There was no argument,’ Lodge told the Courier Mail.
‘I said nothing back. I left the venue and ended up driving home.
‘There was nothing “alpha” about me there that night. I’ve learnt over time that gets you nowhere.
‘I offered to meet the next day when Mark was sober for a man-to-man conversation. It’s how I would rather it was settled but he never got around to sitting down with me.
‘I have no interest in disclosing the exact comments or details.
‘Despite what some may think I have morals and values and I don’t get any joy whatsoever in making someone else’s life tough.’
What will make the situation even harder for Warriors fans to swallow is the fact Lodge was prepared to sign a four-year deal.
New Zealand Warriors owner Mark Robinson was accused of being starting the confrontation, but Lodge also defended the owner, saying he was not racist
It had been reported that Lodge was not willing to move to New Zealand and sought a release. Robinson likened the situation to a ‘severance package’ which means the Warriors will have to wear Lodge’s massive pay packet on their salary cap for 2023.
‘I was very close to signing a four-year deal the Warriors offered me in the pre-season despite my family [former recruitment chief and Lodge’s father-in-law Peter O’Sullivan and his brother-in-law, halfback Sean O’Sullivan] leaving the club just months before.
‘I was invested in the group of boys. And I was keen to go to New Zealand. I really enjoyed my time with the lads.’
It had been alleged that Robinson had made racist remarks in his confrontation with Lodge at the Belvedere, but both parties have since denied that ever happened.
‘People can call me whatever they want but I’m not a racist person,’ Robinson said earlier this week.
‘I will stand tall on that. It could not be further from the truth.
‘I have a Samoan grandson and a Samoan son-in-law.
‘Do you really think I’d talk about my people like that?’
The Belvedere Hotel at Woody Point on the south-eastern tip of the Redcliffe Peninsula
Lodge backed the owner’s denials and said fans should be praising him for keeping the Warriors alive while they have been locked out of New Zealand because of the Covid pandemic.
‘I don’t think Mark Robinson is a racist man and I don’t want him called that or to be labelled racist. I just don’t,’ Lodge said.
‘I always observe people and he’s definitely an inclusive man who I believe would give an opportunity to anyone who works hard for it. I have not seen him show any racism at all.
‘He is a businessman who has decided to put his hand in his own pocket and fund a rugby league club that no doubt costs him a lot of money.
‘Even if people don’t agree with everything, almost everyone should respect him for doing that for the Warriors.’
It is unclear where Lodge will land after walking away from the Warriors with the $700,000 golden handshake. He was playing second-grade rugby union in Brisbane this week but Lodge said he would take his time on deciding his next career move.