Cronulla Sharks’ Andrew Fifita praises Brisbane Broncos’ Matt Lodge for showing restraint after knee from Kyle Flanagan

“I was sitting in the crowd [on Sunday] and at the time I was like, ‘what’s going on?’ But once I saw it in slow motion on the replay, I was expecting three to four weeks from that. If it was vice versa and Lodge did that to my half, mates or no mates, I’m flying in and giving it to him.

“I told Lodgey after the game, what you did with your team and the way you led your team, that’s the kind of leadership you look for.

Lucky escape: Matt Lodge has a word with Kyle Flanagan after the incident at Shark Park last Sunday.Credit:AAP

“I’m different. If somebody did that to me, I’m getting up and throwing the ball and coming down with my elbows straight on your head. That’s just me.

“You’re not allowed to punch, but if someone does that … I told Kyle we don’t need it. It was a big turning point. They got a penalty.

“I’m retaliating. It’s in my nature. Hate me or love me, I won’t let someone do it to me. I thought Lodgey would have [lost it]. He got his trip in.”

Lodge, the Brisbane prop who re-signed with the club on Thursday for a further three years, already polarises fans because of his late-night antics in New York at the end of 2015.

He jumped to his feet while holding Flanagan’s leg and then proceeded to trip him over before the Broncos were awarded a penalty, marched down field and scored a try to get back into the game and eventually consign the Sharks to a third straight loss.

Fifita asked what kind of punishment would have been dished out by the match review committee had he or even his childhood western Sydney buddy Lodge kneed a playmaker.

The return of Fifita from a three-week suspension for a crusher tackle is a huge boost, but the loss of Wade Graham for up to a month with a hamstring injury was the last thing the Shire club needed, especially ahead of their tough road trip to Melbourne.

Cronulla centre Bronson Xerri, who was just 18 months old when 400-game hero Cameron Smith made his NRL debut, was keen to take on the Storm in their own backyard.

Xerri enjoyed watching Smith when he grew up, but was a bigger fan of Benji Marshall who celebrates 300 NRL games on Sunday.

The local youngster was keen to continue his left-field combination with Graham before he broke down in Origin.

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