Phil Gould lifts the lid on Josh Schuster's next NRL move as Manly saga comes to a close

Manly revealed the club had come to a final agreement with Josh Schuster to terminate his deal this week.

Josh Schuster may be currently without an NRL club after Manly cut ties with the utility but Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould believes he will be back on the field by next year at the latest. Schuster was contracted with the Sea Eagles until the end of 2027 after inking a $800,000 per season deal late last year, however, the deal was not set to begin until the 2025 season.

Manly revealed on Wednesday they had finally come to an agreement to terminate Schuster's deal and acknowledged that his time at the club didn't "work out" as expected. Schuster's $800,000 per season extension raised eyebrows at the time and was even more perplexing after Manly signed Luke Brooks to play five-eighth, pushing Schuster to the second row.

Phil Gould says he has
Phil Gould says he has "no doubt" Josh Schuster will be back on the NRL field in 2025. Image: Getty

The 22-year-old starred in the back row when breaking onto the scene in 2021 but enjoyed less success after replacing Kieran Foran at five-eighth when the veteran half moved to the Titans before the 2023 season. Throughout his time at Manly, the utility couldn't shake the "next big thing" tag and the multi-million deal only added pressure on him to perform. On the back of on and off-field struggles Schuster was even dumped to reserve grade in 2023 before returning to the first-grade side and signing his lucrative extension.

There were high hopes that the mercurial talent had turned things around heading into 2024 but Schuster had a pre-season to forget. After contracting chickenpox in December, he suffered a spiral fracture in his finger when he returned in the new year. Manly then ultimately decided it was best for him to seek pastures new as he was granted personal leave. Schuster remained on leave from the club throughout the contract saga.

And Gould believes leaving Manly is the best thing for Schuster's career and says he will be back in the NRL in the near future. "His next decision is an important one... I think (the saga) will be an important part of his life going forward and I can't imagine him wanting to give the game away," Gould said on Wide World of Sports' Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 14:  Josh Schuster of the Sea Eagles celebrates with Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles after scoring a try during the round 10 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on May 14, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Schuster was contracted with the Sea Eagles until the end of 2027 after inking a $800,000 per season deal late last year.

"I'd hate to see him lost to the game. He's an immense talent... I have no doubt that there will be a club that takes him on. No doubt. But that's going to have to take some commitment from Josh as well. He would recognise that.

"It will be a decision as to whether a) he really wants to play the game and how that fits in with what he wants to do with the rest of his life then b) finding and getting the opportunity with the right club and right coach to go forward."


Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall heaped praise on Schuster earlier this month, saying he is the most impressive NRL debutant he's ever seen. Despite admitting the Wests Tigers won't be looking to secure his services, Marshall said he still believes Schuster has the potential to be a star of the NRL.

Four years ago the utility made his NRL debut playing against Marshall and the Wests Tigers coach says he is the best debutant he has ever seen grace the league. "Let me just say this, he's a really talented and a really good kid," Marshall told AAP.

"He's probably got a few issues he's dealing with at the moment. But if he got it right, there's no reason why he couldn't be a good player in the NRL. No reason.

"I think there's this perception out there that he's done. But if he got fitter and had a point to prove with a chip on his shoulder, in the right system he could be enormous."

Marshall believes Schuster could cut it as a five-eighth or backrower, once he gets himself right. "What does he want to do? That's probably the bigger question," Marshall said. "We've seen his talent. There's no doubt. It's early to write him off. I think he's a really good kid."

Since Manly told Schuster he is free to leave, there has been speculation that an old-school coach like Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy could get the best out of the raw utility and may make a move for him. But with Bennett out of a job at the end of the year, it is unlikely the Dolphins coach would bring him to the club.

While Bellamy said Schuster was not on Melbourne's radar. And the Storm coach admitted even if they wanted to bring him in, he doubts they could afford to. "The retention committee haven't spoke about him at all," Bellamy said earlier this month. "I'm not quite sure we'd be able to fit him in dollar-wise. I think that would be fairly unlikely."

with AAP