NSW State of Origin star Andrew Fifita is backing disgraced former rugby league player Matthew Lodge to make it back to the NRL.
Lodge was this week handed a good behaviour bond after being charged with domestic violence in Australia last year, a charge that forced the Wests Tigers to tear up his NRL contract.
However the 21-year-old still faces a civil lawsuit in the United States after being arrested by the NYPD last October for allegedly breaking into a Manhattan apartment, beating a man and intimidating a minor.
The civil lawsuit, filed by the three alleged victims is seeking at least $US1,000,000 ($A1.36) in punitive damages and no less than $US200,000 ($A271,388.83) for economic loss for destruction of property and out of pocket expenses.
He is also set to be sentenced this week for a separate criminal case in New York after pleading guilty to a misdemeanour reckless assault charge, but will avoid jail if he works in a Sydney soup kitchen.
Lodge will also have to undergo anger management among other court-ordered conditions.
But the former Penrith product has since begun to rebuild his football career with junior club Patrician Brothers, where Fifita once coached him in the under-16s.
“He’s playing A-grade footy to keep his fitness up and he’s doing really well,” Fifita told AAP.
“He’s allowed to train with an NRL club if he wanted to, but he’s just caring about himself first and that’s the main thing. Playing park footy makes you realise how good you’ve got it in the NRL.”
Lodge’s management are believed to have been in touch with the NRL recently on what criteria their client needs to meet in order to register a contract.
And Fifita, who himself is still banned from Penrith area junior matches for allegedly abusing a referee at a game, believes the troubled Lodge can still turn his life around and make it back to the NRL.
“I said to Matty, `You’re only young’,” Fifita said.
“He’s only 21 years old and he’s still got the world at his feet. I bet you any money as soon as he gets feet on the ground again, he’ll be playing first grade in no time.
“He’s a quality player, he’s played at all different levels. It’s up to him if he really wants it, but I’ll be happy for him whatever he does.”