Just like his freakish no-look pass, Josh Schuster’s performance at five-eighth in Manly’s 44-12 thrashing of the Warriors at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night had fans frustrated at times, but mainly mesmerised.
There is no limit to what Schuster can do on a football field.
And the Sea Eagles benefitted from his rare playmaking ability in a win they needed against the New Zealand outfit, even if the supremely gifted 21-year-old also came up with some offensive errors.
The future is bright at Brookvale with Schuster in a No.6 jersey, which he will be wearing when Kieran Foran joins the Titans next season.
With captain Daly Cherry-Evans on Queensland duties, Schuster shifted from his left edge to pivot, Foran moving to halfback, and played like he relished having the playmaking keys to the Manly attack.
A brilliant solo try he scored in the first half, after running the ball to the line and placing it down over his head with defenders converging, highlighted a standout performance for the youngster who Manly signed at just 13.
“I enjoyed it (playing five-eighth) a lot. I loved it. I’m just filling in for ‘Chez’ (Cherry-Evans) because he’s on Origin duties,” Schuster, who has had to previously bide his time in the second row, told BettingSite.com.au.
“But to get the opportunity to play five-eighth again is very pleasing.”
The multi-skilled No.6 also loved playing alongside fellow hard-running half Foran, a Manly premiership winner who has enjoyed a resurgence since returning to the Northern Beaches last year.
“He’s having a great year this year, ‘Fozzie’. I’m learning off him because he’s played for his country and the way he’s played for Manly,” Schuster said.
“It’s stupid not to listen to his advice.”
In more good news for Sea Eagles fans, Schuster got through the game feeling good, after being sidelined with ankle and calf injuries this season.
“The body is good. Not too many tackles compared to the back row,” he said.
Schuster believes the Sea Eagles – in ninth place on the NRL ladder with a 6-7 record – can finally build some consistency from their comprehensive win over a disappointing Warriors outfit.
“Definitely, especially after that win. Last year after we beat the Warriors we turned our season around,” he said, after his team lost three in a row before its Round 13 triumph.
“We should keep it up the next few weeks.
“I think it was a pretty good performance. A couple of weeks beforehand have been pretty disappointing for us.
“We were coming up with bad losses. So to get a win at 4 Pines Park is rewarding.”
Schuster believes fellow young gun back-rower Haumole Olakau’atu is good enough to play for New South Wales in this year’s State of Origin series after his dynamic display against the Warriors.
The 23-year-old scored a try and finished with 182m from 17 runs, highlights being his brutal charges into Adam Pompey, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Marcelo Montoya, leaving all three opponents worse off.
“He’s a weapon. He should be in the next Origin call, I reckon,” Schuster said.
“If he keeps it up he should get there.
“I reckon he was unlucky (to miss the Blues’ squad for Game I in Sydney on Wednesday night).
“I think he’s been the best back-rower this year. If not the next Origin call, then hopefully the last one.”
Meanwhile, Manly back-rower Karl Lawton could face more time on the sidelines after he left 4 Pines Park on crutches.
Lawton suffered suspected ACL damage while tackling Warriors prop Ben Murdoch-Masila late in the contest.
It could be a massive blow for the 26-year-old, who was playing in his first game back from a four-week suspension.
A Manly official said the club was waiting on scan results, likely to come back on Monday.