Fresh off a blinding performance for Samoa, Josh Schuster believes he is getting back to full fitness, with the talented backrower shaping as the circuit-breaker who can keep Manly in the hunt for the top eight.
- Schuster’s season has been blighted by injury but the 21-year-old was in great form for Samoa on the weekend
- With the Sea Eagles sitting in 10th spot, Schuster could be the X-factor they need
- Schuster will come off the bench on Thursday night against Melbourne
It has been a stop-start season for Schuster. Injuries meant he appeared in just one of Manly’s first 10 matches, but after playing five straight games and punching through 80 minutes in his Samoan debut, the 21-year-old is starting to feel his best again.
“I’m getting my match fitness back,” he said.
“I had bit of a rough start to the year, but to get an 80-minute performance under my belt is really pleasing.
“I’m definitely feeling it. I have to lose a couple more kilos, but knowing our coach Des Hasler, he’ll definitely get me there.”
Schuster will have to continue to cool his heels on the bench for now, with Andrew Davey playing well on the left edge and Kieran Foran locked in as Daly Cherry-Evans’s halves partner for the rest of the season.
But Schuster’s display in Samoa’s 42-12 win over the Cook Islands on Saturday served as a reminder of the youngster’s gifts.
Schuster finished with three try assists, including two via kicks, as well as two line breaks and two line break assists.
At times he toyed with the Cook Islands defenders with jaw-dropping ease.
With Tom Trbojevic sidelined for the rest of the season and Manly currently sitting in 10th spot, the Sea Eagles will be gathering all the attacking firepower they can, so fitting Schuster in somewhere is likely a key part Hasler’s plans for Manly to mount a top-eight charge.
While Schuster will face sterner opposition than the Cook Islands in the coming weeks, starting with Thursday’s clash against Melbourne, the fact he got through 80 minutes and looked good while doing it is as sure a sign as any that he is getting close to his best.
“I have to thank my club, Manly Sea Eagles, the high-performance unit, the performance staff, Des Hasler and [assistant coach] Steven Hales. I have to thank them for this opportunity,” Schuster said.
“It was a good ball from Marty [Taupau]. He hit me short. I’ve never gone through a bigger gap in my life and I knew I wouldn’t get them for speed – my first reaction was to kick.
“I was lucky enough to have support. Chanel [Harris-Tavita], Taylan [May] and [Izack] Tago were chasing, so I knew I had to kick it, and if it wasn’t for their chase we wouldn’t have scored.
“We have some star players in our team that helped me a lot.
“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have played the game I played.
“I have to give credit to our middles, they laid a good platform for us.”
Schuster’s emotional reaction to the national anthem garnered headlines in the wake of Samoa’s big win.
He is keen to represent the Toa again in the World Cup at season’s end.
“I was a bit shocked with how well we gelled together,” Schuster said.
“We only had two training sessions but it felt like we’d known each other for a couple of weeks.
“[The highlight] wasn’t the game, even if we got the result, it was the camp, the bond with the boys, learning more about my culture, representing my culture, my family and myself.”