Fresh off a dazzling performance for Samoa, Josh Schuster believes he’s getting back to full fitness, with the talented backrower taking shape as the circuit breaker that can keep Manly in the hunt for the top eight.
Most important points:
- Schuster’s season has been plagued with injuries, but the 21-year-old has been in excellent form for Samoa this weekend
- With the Sea Eagles in 10th place, Schuster could be the X factor they need
- Schuster comes off the bench against Melbourne on Thursday evening
It was a stop-start season for Schuster. Due to injuries, he made only one of Manly’s first 10 games, but after playing five games in a row and working 80 minutes into his Samoan debut, the 21-year-old is starting to feel his best again.
“I’m getting my competition fitness back,” he said.
“I had a bit of a rough start to the year, but to get an 80-minute performance under my belt is really pleasing.
“I definitely feel it. I still have a few kilos to lose, but knowing our coach Des Hasler, he will certainly take me there.”
Schuster will have to keep his heels on the bench for now, with Andrew Davey playing well on the left and Kieran Foran locked in as Daly Cherry-Evans’ halves partner for the remainder 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 played with the Cook Islands defenders with astonishing ease.
With Tom Trbojevic sidelined for the remainder of the season and Manly currently in 10th place, the Sea Eagles will muster all the offensive firepower they can, so fitting Schuster somewhere is likely to be a key part of Hasler’s plans for Manly to have a top eight charge.
While Schuster will face stronger opposition than the Cook Islands in the coming weeks, starting with Thursday’s showdown against Melbourne, the fact that he made it through the 80 minutes and looking good while doing so is just as sure a sign that he’s close. comes to its best. †
“I have to thank my club, Manly Sea Eagles, the high-performance unit, the executive 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 touched me briefly. I’ve never gone through a bigger hole in my life and I knew I wasn’t going to get them for speed – my first reaction was to pedal.
“I was lucky to have support. Chanel [Harris-Tavita]Taylor [May] and [Izack] Tago was after him, so I knew I had to kick him, and we wouldn’t have scored without their chase.
“We have some star players in our team who have helped me a lot.
“If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have played the game I was playing.
“I have to give credit to our circles, they have set a good platform for us.”
Schuster’s emotional response to the national anthem made headlines in the wake of Samoa’s big win.
He would like to represent the Toa again at the World Cup at the end of the season.
“I was a little shocked at how well we were doing together,” Schuster said.
“We only had two training sessions, but it felt like we’d known each other for a few weeks.
†[The highlight] Wasn’t the game even if we got the result, it was the camp, bonding with the guys, learning more about my culture, representing my culture, my family and myself.”