Newcastle Knights have pulled out of negotiations to sign controversial Brisbane Broncos prop Matt Lodge.
Despite protracted talks over the past month, a deal with the Broncos over the potential release of Lodge has not materialised and the club has run out of patience.
A public backlash from a cross-section of Knights fans who were vehemently opposed to signing Lodge because of his criminal past was also a contributing factor behind the decision to end talks.
Knights CEO Phil Gardner last night confirmed to the Newcastle Herald the club won't be signing Lodge.
"He's still contracted to the Broncos, he's not contracted to us and that won't be changing," Gardner said. "The truth is despite all the speculation, it never got to the point where we had a deal put in front of us to potentially sign Matt Lodge and we won't be signing him."
Asked how big a role the fan backlash played in the final decision, Gardner said: "As with any potential new player, we have to consider all the implications around it and what it means for the club. Part of that is always weighing up the very strong opinions of a lot of people.
"I think it [the reaction] goes to show how much people care about the club. It also is a symbol of how far we have come as a club from a behaviour and integrity point of view.
"We have a very good squad of young men with the way they behave and the way they are seen by the community. We are right up the top now and some of the comments to me were why bring anyone in that might damage that, even if it's only perception and they are not considered a risk in the future.
"Does it damage what you're trying to build and does it damage the brand? I think there is some truth in all of that. We are representative of our wider community, the fans, the sponsors, the players and their families. There is a lot in that for us and all of it is considered when we make decisions around players."
Lodge was cleared by the NRL to resume his top grade career at the Broncos in 2018, three years after an assault in a New York apartment building led to his conviction.
His current deal at the Broncos is worth $800,000 a season and reaching agreement on how much of that Brisbane would continue to pay if he moved to Newcastle is understood to have been a major sticking point.
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