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Matt Lodge will return for the Warriors this weekend. Photo: NRL Photos / Photosport
Warriors enforcer Matt Lodge has confirmed he rejected a contract extension offered by the club earlier in the year, but has not closed the door on staying beyond his current deal.
Lodge has had a
career revival since joining the Warriors midway through the 2021 campaign, forming a formidable starting front-row pairing alongside Addin Fonua-Blake.
In less than a year as a part of the Warriors, the 26-year-old showed enough to be offered a three-year contract extension by the club during the 2022 preseason, which would keep him in Warriors colors beyond this year, but said he turned it down for several reasons.
“In preseason they put an extension forward, but I hadn’t really spoken to any clubs or done anything by then,” Lodge explained.
“It wasn’t the right time in preseason for me to commit to taking the family over there for another four years, so I figured I’d just play a bit of footy, get in form and maybe sit down with the club and visit it again.
“I had another year and I wanted the family to see New Zealand before I commit there for another four years.”
Lodge has an option in his favor for the 2023 season in his contract, and he has until the end of May to take that up.
There is plenty to weigh up in extending his career with the Warriors as, to this point, he has not had to relocate his family to New Zealand.
Lodge joined the club in July last year, at which point the Warriors were in their second season of being based across the Tasman. The club are due to return to Mt Smart Stadium on July 3, and Lodge said he was looking forward to getting to see more of the area.
“Apart from staying at the Novotel and traveling to the ground at Mt Smart, I’ve never really seen any of New Zealand. I’m looking forward to getting over there and seeing what the country’s about, and playing in front of the home crowd too. I haven’t sacrificed anywhere near as much as some of the other boys, so pencil that game in at home and see what it’s all about. “
While the July game comes after Lodge’s May deadline on his player option, he denied reports that his preference was to stay in Australia in 2023 when the Warriors moved back to Auckland, and said it would ultimately depend on what worked best for his loved ones.
“I’ve got a young family; a few kids and a partner who gave up her uni career. I’ve dragged them across the country and I’m willing to keep doing it as long as they’re happy. I love the boys here and enjoy playing here, so we’ll see what comes of it. “
For now, Lodge is turning his attention to Monday’s Anzac Day clash against the Storm in Melbourne, returning from a one-game absence due to a side strain.
A former Storm junior and first-grade squad member, he had seen the spectacle of the occasion from the sidelines, and was anticipating getting among the action this time around.
“I remember as a kid, playing at Melbourne – in their full-time squad but not playing and sitting on the sidelines watching this game – and it’s definitely one you want to be a part of,” Lodge said. “There’s a great build-up and ceremony before it and I think every time I’ve watched that game, both teams leave everything on the paddock.
“They’re the benchmark of the competition and have been for a long time. It’s always good playing those kinds of teams and seeing where you’re at.”