Schuster searching for new home as Manly let him walk

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.

Battling for form and fitness, Schuster has been unable to break back into the Sea Eagles’ NRL side after an off-season of injuries and setbacks.

But after being a Sea Eagles prodigy since his mid-teens, the 22-year-old’s path has taken a drastic turn in the past week amid discussions with coach Anthony Seibold.

Manly are confident the Samoan international will attract interest from elsewhere, but Sydney’s most cashed-up club St George Illawarra have already ruled out a play for him when contacted by AAP on Wednesday.

Sea Eagles players only 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 best 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.

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

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

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 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.”

Manly made the decision to re-sign Schuster until the end of 2027 last June, amid speculation he could follow recruitment manager Scott Fulton to Wests Tigers.

It is possible the club will still need to carry some of his contract in their salary cap, unless a rival offers him a similar deal of nearly $800,000 per year.