Sea Eagles tell Schuster he can talk to other clubs

Scott Bailey |

Josh Schuster’s days at Manly look numbered after he was informed he can talk to other clubs.
Josh Schuster’s days at Manly look numbered after he was informed he can talk to other clubs.

Josh Schuster’s days at Manly could be numbered after the big-money second-rower was granted permission to open negotiations with NRL rivals.

Just 10 months after being re-signed on a three-year worth close to $2.4 million, AAP has been told Schuster was informed he is free to exit the club.

It comes with the talented 22-year-old battling for form and fitness, unable to break back into the Sea Eagles’ NRL side after an off-season of injuries and setbacks.

Manly players learned of the news on Wednesday afternoon, but admitted they felt for the five-eighth-turned-second-rower.

“What’s going on behind the scenes is above my pay grade and something that we don’t have any control in,” hooker Lachlan Croker said.

“We just wish the best for Schuey.

“Whether that’s here or whether it’s somewhere else, we just can only be a good friend and hope that it all works out.”

Josh Schuster.
Josh Schuster takes on the Sydney Roosters’ line during a 2023 pre-season clash. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

A prodigiously talented youngster brought in by Bob Fulton, the Sea Eagles have long viewed Schuster as an eventual fixture of their spine.

But things have not worked out for the enigmatic star.

His 2020 debut was labelled by Benji Marshall as the best he had seen, and Schuster was a key part of Manly’s run to the 2021 preliminary finals.

But he struggled to be on the park in 2022, and by the time he was made five-eighth in 2023 his form and fitness became an issue.

Manly have played the long game with Schuster, giving him periods of conditioning last year and ruling him out of the Las Vegas round one trip through injury this season.

But he has not broken out of NSW Cup this season, and was even pulled from the field during a match in Wollongong a fortnight ago.

Schuster was then not named in the 22-man NRL squad on Tuesday when second-rower Ben Trbojevic was shifted to centre through injuries.

Conversations have been ongoing between coach Anthony Seibold and Schuster over his future in the past week, before the news dropped on Wednesday.

“He’s a person first, before he’s a footballer,” Croker said.

“It’s the same as any issue that happens with anyone else in our team. You want to look after them as a person first.

“He’s got a lot of great mates in this team and a lot of guys that he’s gone through school with … so I’m sure they will all be looking after him.”

After re-signing Schuster last June amid speculation he could follow recruitment manager Scott Fulton to Wests Tigers, Manly are confident there will be interest in the Samoan international.

However unless another rival offers Schuster a contract equal to his current $800,000-a-year deal at Manly, the Sea Eagles will need to carry a portion of Schuster’s salary in their cap.

One of the NRL’s most cashed-up clubs, St George Illawarra, already ruled themselves out of the running for Schuster, when contacted by AAP on Wednesday.