Schuster can still make it big in the NRL: Marshall

Scott Bailey and Melissa Woods |

Josh Schuster is out of favour at Manly, but Benji Marshall believes he can still be an NRL star.
Josh Schuster is out of favour at Manly, but Benji Marshall believes he can still be an NRL star.

Benji Marshall has thrown his support behind out-of-favour Manly backrower Josh Schuster, insisting the most impressive debutant he’d ever seen can still be a star in the NRL.

Schuster was on Thursday granted personal leave by Manly, one day after being told by the club he was free to explore options elsewhere.

The Tigers are not interested in signing the 22-year-old, but Marshall has genuine sympathy for the youngster who will now sit out NSW Cup matches.

It was only four years ago that Schuster made his NRL debut playing against Marshall, prompting the Tigers star to label it the most impressive he’d ever seen after the match.

Schuster then impressed for Manly in 2021, showing the potential that Bob Fulton saw when he brought him to the Sea Eagles.

However a myriad of fitness concerns and a run of injuries have plagued Schuster since, amid questions over his conditioning.

A shot at the Manly No.6 jersey then failed in 2023, prompting Manly to eventually bring Luke Brooks to the club.

Schuster is yet to crack first grade this year despite signing a $2.4 million three-season deal last June, but Marshall still has faith the Samoan international can rebuild his career.

“Let me just say this: He’s a really talented and a really good kid,” Marshall told AAP at the opening of the Tigers’ new Campbelltown office. 

“He’s probably got a few issues he’s dealing with at the moment. But if he got it right, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be a good player in the NRL. No reason. 

“I think there’s this perception out there that he’s done. 

“But if he got fitter and had a point to prove with a chip on his shoulder, in the right system he could be enormous.”

Marshall knows the pressure that can be put on youngsters as well as anyone, having been a teenage star at the Tigers.

And he believed Schuster still had the ability to cut it as a five-eighth or backrower, once he got things right.

“What does he want to do? That’s probably the bigger question,” Marshall said.

“We’ve seen his talent. There’s no doubt. It’s early to write him off.  I think he’s a really good kid.”

Manly are hopeful Schuster’s salary can be wiped from their cap in future seasons, if a payout can be arranged based on clauses in the contract.

Schuster’s next destination remains unknown, with St George Illawarra having also ruled out making a play.

There is a thought Schuster could do with a coach like Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy, particularly at the right price.

But the former is without a job for next year, while Bellamy on Thursday said Schuster was not on Melbourne’s radar.

“The retention committee haven’t spoke about him at all,” Bellamy said.

“I’m not quite sure we’d be able to fit him in dollar-wise. I think that would be fairly unlikely.”