Sea Eagles make a long-term play to lock down Schuster

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Manly have shut down suggestions they want to offload Josh Schuster by opening up discussions to keep the enigmatic star at the club long term.

The Sea Eagles met with Schuster’s management on Thursday with a view to offering a contract extension to keep him at Brookvale, potentially until the end of 2027. The Samoan international is currently contracted until the end of next year, meaning rivals can start tabling offers from November 1.

Wests Tigers are one of the teams expected to make a play should Schuster become a free agent. The Samoan international has a close relationship with Tigers recruiter Scott Fulton, who recently shifted to the joint-venture outfit.

Schuster has shown glimpses of the talent that had him earmarked as one of the NRL’s brightest stars during an injury-plagued season in which he has also attracted criticism of his form and fitness. Calf and quad complaints have restricted Schuster to just six appearances in 2023, prompting speculation that the Sea Eagles may be prepared to let him go.

However, Manly officials believe Brookvale is the place for him to fulfil his undoubted potential and want him to stay long term. Only last month, Schuster was adamant he could become the best preeminent player in the NRL.

“A hundred per cent. Ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to do this. I know if I continue to work hard, I will be the best player in the world one day,” Schuster said.

Manly Sea Eagles have opened discussion with five-eighth Josh Schuster to keep him at the club long term.Credit: NRL Photos

“I’ve always believed in myself since day one. I always believed that one day I would be the best player in the game. I’ve still got a long way [to go] in saying that, I’ve still got a lot of learning to do. Lucky we have some senior players I can learn off.”

The Tigers are at a crossroads with their halves, having tabled Luke Brooks a cut-price deal, while the injured Adam Doueihi is only signed until the end of next year. The Tigers are expected to reshape their roster, with Shaun Blore, Daine Laurie and Jake Simpkin among the players the club is prepared to let go.

While the Sea Eagles want Schuster to stay, they are open to the prospect of assistant coach Shane Flanagan moving on if he is offered the St George Illawarra job. Flanagan met with Dragons chairman Andrew Lancaster and director Ben Hornby on Wednesday, with the club likely to make a decision by next week.

“‘Flanno’ has kept me up to date with where things are at,” said Manly coach Anthony Seibold ahead of his side’s clash with the Dolphins on Friday.

“He feels there will be a resolution sooner rather than later. I hope he gets the job. He’s qualified to get the job, he’s a premiership-winning coach, he’s coached eight years. He’s been fantastic for me.

“It would be a loss for the club, but ultimately with assistant coaches you want them to be aspirational. I’d love to see him get another opportunity and I hope he gets one at the Dragons.”

Seibold said he hadn’t yet broached the prospect of whether Flanagan, if successful, would leave immediately or at the end of the season. Regardless, Seibold said the former Cronulla coach would be a loss.

“He’s been a very good sounding board to me,” Seibold said. “Being an experienced coach, I feel you can lean on him [and ask] ‘What did you do on this occasion? What do you think about this?’

“Then you go away and think more about it. I feel any coaching staff that has an ex-head coach on staff, that’s a really positive thing because they have been through the furnace. They have won games, lost games, been on winning streaks, been on losing streaks. That’s the experience I bring from my last two jobs and that’s the experience Flanno brings from Cronulla as well.”

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