Manly boss makes big call on Josh Schuster's future after axing to reserve grade

The under-fire Manly utility has been punted to NSW Cup after he didn't run the ball once against the Warriors.

Josh Schuster, pictured here in action for the Sea Eagles against the Warriors.
Josh Schuster didn't have a single run in a 25-minute stint off the bench for the Sea Eagles against the Warriors. Image: Getty/Fox Sports

Manly boss Tony Mestrov is confident exiled five-eighth Josh Schuster will respond to the club's 'tough love' and fight his way back to the NRL, allaying fears he could walk away from the game after yet another career setback. Schuster has been dropped to NSW Cup due to concerns over his form and fitness and is unlikely to be back in the NRL this year, given the Sea Eagles won’t play finals football.

But Mestrov, who fully backed coach Anthony Seibold's call to axe the out-of-sorts utility, remains firmly in Schuster's corner. "What people have to remember is Josh is only 22 and is still developing, both as a player and a person," Mestrov told Yahoo Sport Australia.

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"He is playing in a high-pressure sport that has a heavy spotlight on it and there are certain demands and expectations that come with that. Josh is fully aware of his responsibilities as an NRL player and acknowledges at times he hasn't met the standards we expect. But we remain confident he can reach the level required and we are willing to work hard with him to get him to that level."

Josh Schuster, pictured here in action for the Manly Sea Eagles.
Josh Schuster in action for the Manly Sea Eagles. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Manly boss throws support behind axed Josh Schuster

Schuster's situation has been likened to Tevita Pangai Jr's decision to abruptly quit rugby league to take up boxing, the pressure to live up to his $750,000-a-year price tag proving too much of a burden for the NSW Origin forward. Schuster is on similar money at Manly (reportedly $3.2 million over four years) and with the big money comes big expectations.

Asked if he feared the attention and scrutiny on Schuster could drive the young utility out of the game, Mestrov said: "No I don't. We believe him when he says he wants to make something of his career, and that he wants to do that at this club.

"There are no comparisons to the Tevita situation. Josh will do the work required to get to where we need him to be. We see this (his demotion to the NSW Cup) as a chance for him to re-set and work on his game away from the NRL spotlight. He's not the first player to go through this sort of challenge and he won’t be the last."

Schuster spent time out of the first-grade side earlier this year following a drop in form and fitness, leaving many asking how many more chances he will receive to prove he wants it enough.

"We won't be giving up on Josh Schuster and he's not giving up on us," Mestrov declared. "We're confident the rugby league world will see the best of him in the years to come."

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