Manly coach Anthony Seibold's patience with Josh Schuster has run out, with the 22-year-old dumped to reserve grade after another lacklustre display in the NRL. Reports of a dressing room incident are said to have sealed the fate of Schuster, who started off the bench against the Warriors in round 25, but failed to make one single run in the 26 minutes he was on the field.
The Sea Eagles had already ended the Schuster experiment in the halves, preferring Jake Arthur at No.6, with the young gun handed an edge forward role when he came off the interchange in Friday night's controversial defeat to the high-flying Warriors. The talented, but frustratingly inconsistent young star failed to have any impact though, dishing up one error to go with seven tackles and a missed tackle, before he was eventually hooked by Seibold.
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“It’s harder not to have a run than have a run in the back row, I’ve said it before, there’s not much that he can’t do on the footy field,” league great Gorden Tallis said on NRL 360 on Monday night. “It’s his efforts. You would die to have his ability, it is what he does away from the footy field.”
That comment prompted a response from veteran league reporter Phil Rothfield, who said it was Schuster's reaction to his performance and attitude after being pulled from the field in the second half that ultimately sealed his fate. Rothfield said when Sea Eagles noticed in the sheds after the game that the 22-year-old didn't seem remotely fazed by his poor performance, they knew it was time to demote him to reserve grade.
“It’s interesting you say what he does away from the footy field, because when they hooked him after 20 minutes, they were expecting him to be dirty, to blow up,” Rothfield said. “He just carried on business as usual in the sheds after the game. That’s when Anthony Seibold was convinced it is time for a (shake-up).”
Questions raised over Josh Schuster's $3.2 million deal
Schuster's attitude is regularly called into question and a challenge from captain Daly Cherry-Evans earlier in the season has failed to have the desired effect. He was also dropped to reserve grade earlier in 2023, before signing a four year contract extension at Manly worth a staggering $800,000 per season. With Luke Brooks set to arrive at Manly next season, the $3.2 million deal for Schuster looks to be confusing business for a backrower whose place in the starting side is far from secured.
NRL 360 co-host questioned whether Manly should have extended the young gun's deal, particularly on such big money. Apart from some lukewarm reported interest from the Wests Tigers, there didn't appear to be any other contenders for Schuster's signature, with Rothfield adding that his future at the club was very much under a cloud.
“He hasn’t done the hard work, his teammates have complained about it, have Manly made the right call by signing him?” Anasta asked. Rothfield added: “The off-season is going to be particularly important... I don’t see any way Manly can terminate his contract through a performance clause, it’d have to be a disciplinary reason."
League reporter Brent Read said the money that re-signed Schuster on was the biggest issue at Manly. “I don’t have an issue with them re-signing him, it is the amount they paid to re-sign him, that’s the bigger issue,” Read said. “They were competing against themselves, there was no one other than them interested in signing him.”
Rothfield was adamant that if the situation with Schuster continues though, Manly will have little choice but to try and find a way to offload him. “If we are here next year talking about him not competing, getting hooked, they will try and sell him for sure,” Rothfield said.
“You can’t drop him a third time... he wouldn’t be the first big name offloaded, they might contribute $300,000 and give him to Shane Flanagan for $500,000 at St George. He has coached him, he knows what he is capable of, Flanagan is desperate to put some quality into that Dragons side.”
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