NRL star slammed for ‘dirty’ act
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy wasn't happy about one of his star players being illegally targeted as Matt Lodge came under fire for a "dirty" act on Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster.
The Brisbane prop came out breathing fire in the opening minute of Thursday night's NRL season opener, won 22-12 by Melbourne, as he tried to assert himself on the contest by making life as uncomfortable as possible for Munster.
Lodge charged out of the line from marker and made a beeline for the Storm pivot as he launched a bomb from halfway. But the front-rower didn't get to him in time and collected his legs after Munster had made contact with the Steeden, knocking him to the ground.
The NRL has made protecting kickers a high priority and referees take a dim view on defenders attacking the legs. In this instance, Melbourne received a penalty and Lodge will likely find himself having a charge to answer if he wants to be eligible for round two.
"We see plenty of penalties in the game where players just make contact - that was one of the dangerous ones," Penrith legend Greg Alexander said in commentary for Fox League.
"That's why the rule was brought in to protect players in that sort of situation, both legs in the air and hit with some force.
"Matthew Lodge will find himself in a little bit of trouble from the Match Review Committee."
After the game Bellamy said he knew Brisbane's kick pressure would be a feature of its game but called Lodge's act "illegal" and said it was lucky Munster escaped without any serious damage.
"He (Munster) got cracked … and obviously was illegal and there was a penalty there," Bellamy said.
"You just can't take his legs out like that so we're sort of glad that he didn't get an injury after that incident.
"But I think that's been a thing I've noticed through their trials, they've been coming out and putting a lot of pressure on kickers and I thought they did that well tonight.
"And because of that (pressure) I thought our kicking game was really good."
Fox League pundit and former NSW hooker Michael Ennis expects Lodge to miss at least a week for his dangerous tackle.
"Cameron was in a lot of discomfort," Ennis said. "He (Lodge) was like a missile in around his knee area.
"The game has said it won't tolerate that, I'd be surprised if he's on the field next week."
Former NRL star Willie Mason slammed Lodge's "dirty" act on Twitter.
"I'm all for kick pressure, but f*** that dirty s**t off!! Could of blown his knee out!! Get that out of our game @NRL zero tolerance!" Mason wrote.
There was talk Munster may have filled the fullback role left vacant by the retired Billy Slater this year but Bellamy deemed him too valuable in the halves and instead opted to give Jahrome Hughes the No. 1 jersey, and the youngster repaid his coach's faith.
Hughes scored the first try of the season, touching down in the third minute right in front of the Slater stand at AAMI Park, named this week in the superstar's honour.
Hughes went into the match under plenty of pressure to emulate one of the game's best ever players. He also was well aware he wasn't Melbourne's first-choice replacement, with Scott Drinkwater in the box seat until a serious pectoral injury in the club's second trial.
But finishing with 218 metres and a try in a 22-12 win, his accomplished performance earned high praise from Bellamy.
"I thought Hughesy was our best player - he was outstanding," Bellamy said. "He had a whole heap of runs, he was very effective with a lot of things that he did.
"His test will be to be consistent with that but I couldn't be more happy with his performance"
Bellamy said Hughes had taken on board the coaching given by Slater, who is back at the Storm in a part-time role to work with the young fullbacks at the club.
"Billy has been working with them and there were some signs there that Jahrome has been taking a fair bit of notice," Bellamy said.
"It's hard to replace a Billy Slater, for so long he's been playing quality footy, but we have all worked really hard and Billy's been a big part of that."
Bellamy was happy to see his team deliver an improved completion rate after some worrying signs in its two trials. It finished with an 87 per cent completion rate, finishing 34 of 39 sets.
"Obviously it was a huge, huge improvement on what we did in the trials," Bellamy said.
"It was nice for us to complete like that after what we've done in the trials and at training but we're not patting ourselves on the back just yet, we need to be consistent."