The NRL‘s gender advisor Catharine Lumby has voiced her concerns over the decision to allow Matthew Lodge to sign for the Brisbane Broncos last year, saying the league may have overlooked his conviction over a shockingly violent home invasion because of his potential to become a star player.
Speaking to ABC’s 7.30, Lumby said the league “might have made an exception for Lodge” despite the 2015 incident, which saw him stalk and spew death threats at a woman in New York, force his way into an apartment, assault a male resident, and traumatise a nine-year-old boy.
Lodge was arrested at gunpoint after the incident but avoided jail time. He was sentenced to community service in Australia along with treatment for alcohol abuse and anger control issues.
Lumby, who called the case one of the most “horrifying” she had ever handled, said Lodge had not delivered a satisfactory statement of contrition to the public, nor had he begun to repay the $1.6 million in damages awarded to the victims in a subsequent civil suit.
Ruth Fowler, the mother of the child traumatised during the 2015 home invasion, said “it’s pretty heartbreaking to think that this man might become a role model for Australian children given what he did to us.”
Brisbane Broncos chief executive Paul White pointed out that Lodge’s salary, on the lower end of the league’s payscale, meant he was unable to service the $1.6 million payment.
White also pointed to a 2016 letter of apology sent to the New York Assistant District Attorney to be passed on to victim. However, Fowler and her partner Joseph Cartright state they have received “nothing” in the way of an apology.
Lumby said she would be raising the issue with NRL leadership, stating “I would like more information and understanding of the rationale behind this because, to be quite frank, I was blindsided by it.”