Josh Schuster at a crossroads after Manly Sea Eagles grant permission to speak to rival clubs

The price tag has also made Schuster an easy target for critics. However, only those closest to the 24-year-old fully appreciate the struggles he is dealing with.

Schuster has been languishing in reserve grade after a tough pre-season, which included a dose of chickenpox, a spiral fracture of his finger and a calf strain. Then he had to publicly relive the death of his closest friend, Keith Titmuss, in the witness box during a coronial inquest in February.

Manly have told Josh Schuster he can negotiate with other clubs less than a year after signing a big contract extension.Credit: Getty

Their lifelong dream was playing together for Samoa, although Schuster has only represented the Pacific nation once, instead prioritising his club as the pressure mounted for him to justify his pay packet.

“I know Keithy very well. He will definitely be laughing at me because he says I’m ‘plastic’,” Schuster once told me while wearing the Samoan jersey.

“It’s a saying for people who are Samoan, but can’t speak Samoan; when you only understand the language – and the swear words!”

The pressure to live up to the deeds of his famous footballing family, as well as other people’s expectations, have weighed heavily on Schuster. Uncle John Schuster was an All Black who also played for the Newcastle Knights; uncle Peter was an Australian rugby sevens star; great uncle Fred represented New Zealand in union; and grandfather David – who he considers his father and even calls “Dad” – represented Samoa.

When Schuster made his NRL debut against the Tigers, Benii Marshall gushed: “That’s the best debut I’ve seen from a young kid in my time. Ever.” The late, great Immortal Bob Fulton predicted he would not only succeed Daly Cherry-Evans as playmaker, but also as club captain.

Schuster did little to douse the hype. A smattering of eye-catching, albeit inconsistent, performances were accompanied by bold predictions.

“I’ve always believed in myself since day one,” Schuster said last May. “I always believed that one day I would be the best player in the game.”


It is a boast he has been unable to back up. Seibold has preferred Haumole Olakau’atu and Ben Trbojevic this season as his first-choice back-rowers, relegating Schuster to feeder club Blacktown.

Down on form and fitness, he hasn’t been able to produce the performances required to add to his 50 first-grade appearances. Now a club that had earmarked him as the superstar to lead them into a bright future – and is paying him accordingly – has told him he has no future there.

It is a bitter blow for Schuster. As a painfully shy kid growing up in Mount Druitt, football was the outlet that allowed him to express himself. It also spawned a dream to make it big in the NRL, one that has just become more elusive.

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