Warriors gave departed Lodge $766k 'golden handshake' - report

Source: 1News

The Warriors' front office has come under fire after a report surfaced that the team gave departed front-rower Matt Lodge a hefty payout despite his mid-season exit.

Matt Lodge.

The Daily Telegraph reports Lodge was given a AU$700,000 [NZ$766,000] golden handshake from the Kiwi club - a payout that the Warriors will reportedly have to include in their salary cap for the remainder of this season as well as next year.

Lodge's short tenure with the Warriors ended last week after the club agreed to give him an immediate release from his contract. He joined the side partway through the 2021 season.

The 26-year-old signed a two-year deal with the club, including a player option in 2023 which appears to be the point of contention.

It was assumed Lodge had forfeited his salary as it was his call to break the contract and not relocate to New Zealand with the Warriors due to his family, but the Daily Telegraph reports he was paid out in full - player option included.

The Daily Telegraph followed up the report on Thursday afternoon with an interview with Warriors owner Mark Robinson, who said he blames a heated hotel exchange with Lodge for the eventual split.

Robinson said the pair got into it late last year in Redcliffe - a moment Lodge never got over.

“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. Plus he didn’t want to come back to New Zealand next year.

"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."

1News understands the NRL's integrity unit will not investigate the reported payment as it was included in the salary cap.

Following multiple requests from media, Warriors CEO Cameron George later Thursday afternoon addressed media in a digital press conference, saying he wouldn't give a figure.

"All I can see is that the settlement was agreed upon and it's something that we're very comfortable with and it sits well within our salary cap over the next season and a half," he said.

"When we talk about players and negotiations and settlements and so on, as a club we will never ever release that information.

"It's not professional and it's not appropriate."

George also backed Robinson's account of the hotel exchange although he played down the reported "heated" nature of it.

The reports have gained plenty of attention in the past 24 hours, with fans and critics questioning how Lodge walked away with such a large pot.

Analysts on the NRL 360 show were just as baffled.

"This story is a bizarre one and I can't understand and I would love someone to explain it to me, but Matt Lodge has been given a release from the Warriors, but paid out in full for the rest of this season and the rest of next year," Braith Anasta said on NRL 360.

"It doesn't add up to me. What has happened here?"

Co-host Phil Rothfield, who wrote the Daily Telegraph report, said the Warriors need to cough up some answers.

"I have been chasing this story all day and it still remains a $700,000 question mark," Rothfield said.

"That was the size of his golden handshake. If any football player walks into his employer or any employer and says, I have had enough and for personal reasons I don't want to move my family to New Zealand, say 'okay fine', that's the end of the contract.

"But for some reason and the CEO of the Warriors Cameron George won't explain it to me. I have texted him. I have rung him. He is hiding behind confidentiality clauses.

"But there is a lot of fans in New Zealand wanting to know why he got $700,000. It ruins their cap for the remainder of this year and next year."

Warriors CEO Cameron George.

George said in last week's announcement Lodge had told them he didn't wish to move to New Zealand long time a while ago.

"The opportunity for him to leave now allows us to move forward with our future planning and to develop our younger players," George said.

"We're grateful to Matt for the contribution he has made since joining us last year and wish him and his family all the best for the future."

Lodge made just 14 appearances for the Warriors.