Benji Marshall's prediction about Josh Schuster as Craig Bellamy makes call on signing NRL player

The Wests Tigers coach says Josh Schuster is the most impressive NRL debutant he's ever seen.

Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall has heaped praise on out of favour Manly utility Josh Schuster, saying he is the most impressive NRL debutant he's ever seen. The Sea Eagles revealed on Wednesday that Schuster has been told he is free to negotiate with rival clubs and can leave Manly if he secures a deal elsewhere.

Manly recently re-signed Schuster on a three-year contract extension thought to be worth $800,000 per season. But reports on Wednesday night emerged that the deal is largely incentive-based, meaning the Sea Eagles won't have to pay Schuster if he leaves.

Pictured L-R: Benji Marshall, Josh Schuster and Craig Bellamy
Benji Marshall says Josh Schuster is the most impressive NRL debutant he's ever seen, however, both he and Craig Bellamy ruled out signing him. Image: Getty

NRL reporter Michael Carayannis revealed on NRL 360 earlier this week that one stipulation in Schuster's new contract relates to his weight. Despite managing to slim down in the off-season, he has struggled to maintain his weight loss in recent months due to injury and a bout of chicken pox.

The Sea Eagles utility was dropped to NSW Cup last season due to concerns over his form and fitness and he hasn't looked like returning to the NRL so far in 2024. Manly also moved to secure the services of Luke Brooks last season after Schuster's experiment in the halves didn't go to plan.

His future at the Sea Eagles was then thought to be in the back row, but now the only way it seems that he will crack first grade again is at another club. Schuster was on Thursday granted personal leave by Manly, one day after being told by the club he was free to explore options elsewhere.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 02: Josh Schuster of the Sea Eagles warms up ahead of the round 18 NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and Sydney Roosters at 4 Pines Park on July 02, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Josh Schuster was dropped to NSW Cup due to concerns over his form and fitness last season and hasn't looked like returning to the NRL in 2024.

Benji Marshall shuts down potential move for Josh Schuster

Despite admitting the Wests Tigers won't be looking to secure his services, Marshall said he still believes Schuster has the potential to be a star of the NRL. Four years ago the utility made his NRL debut playing against Marshall and the Wests Tigers coach says he is the best debutant he has ever seen grace the league.

"Let me just say this, he's a really talented and a really good kid," Marshall told AAP. "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 believes Schuster could cut it as a five-eighth or backrower, once he gets himself 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."


Craig Bellamy says the Storm don't have the budget for Josh Schuster

Since Manly told Schuster he could seek pastures new, there has been speculation that an old-school coach like Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy could get the best out of the raw utility and may make a move for him at a discounted price. But with Bennett out of a job at the end of the year, it is unlikely the Dolphins coach would move to bring him to the club.

While Bellamy on Thursday said Schuster was not on Melbourne's radar. The Storm coach said even if they wanted to bring him in, he doubts they could afford to. "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."

with AAP