Manly keen to keep tight rein on Schuster’s NRL return

George Clarke |

Manly’s Josh Schuster will spend more time in reserve grade before returning to the NRL.
Manly’s Josh Schuster will spend more time in reserve grade before returning to the NRL.

Manly are vowing to keep playing the long game with Josh Schuster as coach Anthony Seibold resists the temptation to throw the enigmatic forward back into NRL action.

Coming off their first loss of the season at the hands of Parramatta last week, Seibold has stuck with more or less the same 17 to face St George Illawarra in Wollongong on Saturday. 

The Sea Eagles coach confirmed prop Toff Sipley would come straight onto the interchange bench after a three-game crusher tackle suspension ended, but would not reveal who would make way.

Schuster, however, remains some way off returning to first-team action after encouraging outings in Manly’s lower grades over the last fortnight. 

“He is progressing really well, last week in reserve grade he was outstanding,” Seibold said on Friday. 

“But I’d rather give ‘Schuey’ his next opportunity two or three weeks late rather two or three weeks too early because I don’t want that yo-yo effect.

“When he’s up I want him to stay up … he’s had literally two weeks back training and had two weeks back playing.

“I’d rather be patient with him … I want him banging on the door saying, ‘When am I in coach?’ I need to see that not just for one week, but for a period of time.”

Calf injuries and a bout of chickenpox derailed Schuster’s pre-season after Manly flagged he would move to the backrow following Luke Brooks’ arrival at the club over the summer. 

Manly’s reserve-grade side Blacktown have used Schuster as an edge forward and at lock, but Seibold said his change of position was simply a part of getting the 22-year-old up to speed. 

“He played well (at lock) and we wanted to get his hands on the footy and get in the washing machine,” Seibold said. 

“It’s a bit different when you play at five-eighth or on an edge and we wanted to see how he went.” 

Seibold is urging his side to not let their intensity drop against the Dragons after their mid-game slump allowed the Eels to run away with victory last week.

A win will give Manly (2-1) their best start to a season since 2014.

But Seibold is expecting his former assistant coach Shane Flanagan, whose Dragons outfit butchered an 18-4 lead to lose 46-24 against North Queensland last week, to have the Red V firing.

“There’ll be a really emotional response and we need to come with that physicality we started in our first three games,” Seibold said.

“I’ve got nothing but respect for ‘Flanno’ but I’ll leave the chats until after the game.”