Tips: Young gun’s return flips script for Manly

Brad Fittler says Manly “need” Josh Schuster to return to the line-up ASAP, with the Sea Eagles facing a mini injury crisis for their Friday night clash with the Rabbitohs.

Coming off the back of their first loss in five weeks, Manly will have the chance to bolster their place in the top eight before winning games against the Wests Tigers at home (round nine) and the Broncos in a Magic Round clash at Suncorp Stadium ( round 10).

However, with Haumole Olakau’atu suspended and Taniela Paseka and Andrew Davey added to an injury list that already included Josh Aloiai and Morgan Boyle, Manly’s forward pack is starting to look threadbare, prompting Andrew Johns to tip the Rabbitohs.

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The losses of Paseka and Davey are offset to a degree by the return of Test front-rower Martin Taupau and utility forward Sean Keppie who has been named to start in the front row.

Yet it’s the creativity of Schuster that could change the dynamic of the match, according to Fittler, with the 20-year-old named on an extended bench after missing the first seven weeks of the season due to an ankle injury.

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The young gun cemented his place in Manly’s starting side in a breakout 2021 season, moving from his preferred five-eighth position into a left edge role in the forward pack.

And with Olakau’atu out, the Sea Eagles would be desperate to add some firepower to the industry Karl Lawton and Ethan Bullemor offer in the second row.

“Josh Schuster at the moment is on the extended bench,” Fittler told Johns for Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth’s Tips.

“So whether he takes his place in the team or not will be interesting, it’ll be his first game of the year and I think they need him.”

The return of Schuster will add to a fascinating storyline at the Sea Eagles that ties in Kieran Foran’s contract negotiations.

The veteran five-eighth is off contract at the end of this season but is keen to play on and has long been one of coach Des Hasler’s favorite players.

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Foran has been a standout for Manly so far this season, and at 31 has shaken off a torrid period of his career that was dominated by a string of long-term injuries to regain form and fitness at a time when Schuster is developing into a future star in a playmaking role.

The resurgence of Foran could create a huge headache at Manly, particularly if Schuster immediately returns to the kind of form that made him a vital part of the club’s success last season as they secured a top four berth and went within one game of a grand final on the back of an extraordinary season from Tom Trbojevic.

Trbojevic is another star on Manly’s injury list, with the reigning Dally M Medallist penciled in for a return next week against the Tigers.

Andrew Johns: Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Roosters, Eels, Knights, Tigers

Brad Fittler: Sharks, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Billy Slater: Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Roosters, Cowboys, Storm, Dragons

Paul Gallen: Sharks, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Darren Lockyer: Broncos, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Warriors, Roosters, Storm, Dragons, Eels

Wally Lewis: Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Allana Ferguson: Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Johnathan Thurston: Sharks, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Peter Psaltis: Broncos, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Matt Thompson: Sharks, Panthers, Souths, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Michael Chammas: Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Dave Middleton: Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

The Mole: Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

Ben Glover: Sharks, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Warriors, Roosters, Eels, Storm, Dragons

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