Manly '10-times' better with Schuster, says Croker

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Manly hooker Lachlan Croker claims his Sea Eagles are a 10-times better team with Josh Schuster on the park, as the five-eighth nears an NRL return from intense reconditioning.

Schuster returned to training with Manly's first-grade side earlier this week after sitting out the past two matches while being conditioned back to first grade.

The 22-year-old was due to train again on Thursday night, before Manly make a call on Saturday on whether to run him out against the Sharks.

At this stage the Sea Eagles are leaning towards sitting him out one more week as they desperately try to return him to his best after back-to-back calf and quad injuries.

His stint on the sidelines has coincided with talk he could be squeezed out of the Sea Eagles with Wests Tigers an obvious option given recruitment boss Scott Fulton's move there.

But Manly players are adamant he can still be a force at the Sea Eagles and the team is a much bigger attacking threat with him on the field.

He was the club's best in the round-two win over Parramatta before a middling performance against South Sydney and an unhappy outing against Wests Tigers.

"To be able to play consistent footy and consistent good footy, you have to have a lot of stuff outside of footy in check," Croker said.

"When he gets that under control and is playing footy for our team, we're a 10-times better team.

"Some of the games he played last year and the year before, to be able to string those games together and do that sort of stuff for our team is something that we need.

"It's something that he's conscious of and the staff here are conscious of it as well."

If Schuster does not face Cronulla on Sunday at 4 Pines Park, Cooper Johns will retain his position in the halves alongside Daly Cherry-Evans.

But the Samoan international is doing all he can to return.

Schuster has dropped considerable weight in the past fortnight, during a time where Manly have been humbled by Gold Coast and Brisbane and struggled in attack.

"He's trimmed down a bit," winger Reuben Garrick said.

"He is doing everything he can. We walk in at training sometimes and he is on the erg bike, stair-climbers, and I just think geez I would hate for that to be me.

"But he is, he is putting in a lot of work. I am not sure what the story is with him this week. I don't know.

"But if he is included in the squad this week it would be a massive plus for us. He is our top-flight five-eighth, when he is on the field he is a great player."