Manly could hand the 28-year-old off-contract front-rower, Matt Lodge, a lifeline in rugby league, despite an ACL injury that may keep him off-field for the better part of the upcoming season. Lodge, who had recently switched to the Sea Eagles from the Roosters on a short-term train-and-trial agreement, sustained the crucial injury during a key loss to his previous club last Thursday.
The timing of the setback could not have been more ill-timed for the player, but Manly’s CEO, Tony Mestrov, has hinted at the likelihood of keeping Lodge with a new deal on the northern beaches. Mestrov highlighted the significant impact Lodge has had on the team since his recent transition.
“Matt has fitted in extremely well since joining the club and he’s been great for our younger players,” Mestrov commented. He added: “He’s shown enough in the few games he’s played with us and this injury won’t sway our thinking when looking at our roster for next year.”
A nine-month recovery period from his knee surgery would mean Lodge might not return to the field until the second half of the 2024 league, with Manly welcoming new recruits Luke Brooks, Tommy Talau, and Jaxson Paulo.
The Tricolours, Lodge’s former team, have shown interest in extending their one-year deal with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to keep him playing in 2024 and are also planning to welcome Spencer Leniu, a Penrith prop next year.
Manly’s stance may offer Lodge some security. His injury has hit the club hard, especially for coach Anthony Seibold, who is already dealing with the absence of players like Taniela Paseka (knee), Josh Aloiai (shoulder) and Sean Keppie (back) in their recent game against the Roosters.
On Lodge’s injury, Seibold remarked: “He’s obviously shattered. We’ll pick up the pieces over the next couple of days. I feel for him and his family.”
Lodge’s presence in the Sea Eagles has been influential, with wins against the Sharks and the Dragons recorded after he came onboard. In his unfortunate third match with the team, he had to leave within 10 minutes due to his injury.
Manly, currently situated just a point outside the top eight, will go head-to-head against title favourites Penrith and the Warriors over the next two weeks to keep their season hopes alive.
Seibold will need to make some important choices regardarding other free agents as Lodge is hoping to settle down with his fifth NRL club following terms with the Tigers, Broncos, Warriors and Roosters.