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NRL News: Sea Eagles show Schuster the door, Eels encounter 'market value' hitch in Lomax deal, Reynolds eyes early return

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10th April, 2024
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Josh Schuster’s days at Manly could be numbered after the big-money second-rower was granted permission to open negotiations with NRL rivals.

Just 10 months after being re-signed on a three-year worth close to $2.4 million, AAP has been told Schuster was informed he is free to exit the club.

It comes with the talented 22-year-old battling for form and fitness, unable to break back into the Sea Eagles’ NRL side after an off-season of injuries and setbacks.

Manly players learned of the news on Wednesday afternoon, but admitted they felt for the five-eighth-turned-second-rower.

“What’s going on behind the scenes is above my pay grade and something that we don’t have any control in,” hooker Lachlan Croker said. “We just wish the best for Schuey.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“Whether that’s here or whether it’s somewhere else, we just can only be a good friend and hope that it all works out.”

A prodigiously talented youngster brought in by Bob Fulton, the Sea Eagles have long viewed Schuster as an eventual fixture of their spine.

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But things have not worked out for the enigmatic star.

His 2020 debut was labelled by Benji Marshall as the best he had seen, and Schuster was a key part of Manly’s run to the 2021 preliminary finals.

But he struggled to be on the park in 2022, and by the time he was made five-eighth in 2023 his form and fitness became an issue.

Manly have played the long game with Schuster, giving him periods of conditioning last year and ruling him out of the Las Vegas round one trip through injury this season.

But he has not broken out of NSW Cup this season, and was even pulled from the field during a match in Wollongong a fortnight ago.

Schuster was then not named in the 22-man NRL squad on Tuesday when second-rower Ben Trbojevic was shifted to centre through injuries.

Conversations have been ongoing between coach Anthony Seibold and Schuster over his future in the past week, before the news dropped on Wednesday.

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After re-signing Schuster last June amid speculation he could follow recruitment manager Scott Fulton to Wests Tigers, Manly are confident there will be interest in the Samoan international.

However unless another rival offers Schuster a contract equal to his current $800,000-a-year deal at Manly, the Sea Eagles will need to carry a portion of Schuster’s salary in their cap.

One of the NRL’s most cashed-up clubs, St George Illawarra, already ruled themselves out of the running for Schuster, when contacted by AAP on Wednesday.

Eels need exemption for Zac deal

Parramatta will need to apply for an exemption from the NRL to sign Zac Lomax at his market value after St George Illawarra released him under the condition that they would not pay a cent for his contract beyond this year.

Lomax will see out the season at the Dragons and the Eels are the favourites to sign him for 2025 and beyond.

But under NRL rules they cannot offer him a deal less than the one he is walking away from and Lomax’s annual salary was due to rise above $800,000 next season and 2026under the terms of his long-term Dragons deal.

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The Eels believe his market value has dipped below $700,000 after being dropped to the NSW Cup for a spell last season and being moved to the wing this year by new coach Shane Flanagan but they will need permission from the NRL’s salary cap auditor to get the contract lodged.

The Eels are prepared to offer the 24-year-old the chance to play his preferred position but don’t want to overpay for a player who has yet to reach his potential in the NRL.

In his first game since the Dragons granted his release request last Friday in Newcastle, the unsettled Zac Lomax was one of few exceptions as the visitors struggled to adapt to the slippery conditions.

Newcastle poked holes in the Dragons’ goal-line defence for fun in the first half, forcing Shane Flanagan to switch Lomax to fullback and put Tyrell Sloan on the wing for part of the second half.

There was speculation that he would get the No.1 jersey for this Sunday’s showdown with the Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium but Flanagan has again named Sloan at fullback.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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Reynolds pencils in return date

Brisbane skipper Adam Reynolds is targeting a round eight return against Wests Tigers as he battles back from a hamstring strain.

Reynolds left the field just before halftime in round five’s 34-32 loss to Melbourne and will be replaced by Jock Madden against the Dolphins on Friday night.

The Broncos then host Canberra in round seven before an away trip to the Tigers in Campbelltown.

“I will probably miss the Canberra game and I’m touch and go for the Tigers, but it all depends on how it pulls up,” Reynolds said on Tuesday.

“I’m feeling alright. I had a trot today at training. It felt pretty good although it wasn’t very fast.

“It will be a couple of weeks. I will see how it feels in the morning then continue to work with the physios and go from there.”

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There were fears Reynolds, who has previously been hampered by a medial collateral ligament problem, had suffered a more serious injury when he left the field against Melbourne.

Vision of him showing his emotions in the dressing room against the Storm led onlookers to believe he had suffered a more serious injury.

“I was just frustrated,” Reynolds said.

“When you get one injury, you come back and want to string a few games together.

“I felt it pretty early on in that game. I wanted to get through to halftime and see where it got to and how it felt.

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“I felt it pretty bad towards the end of the first half and it was just frustration.

“There’s nothing more to it. You want to be a part of those games in Melbourne.

“To know you won’t be out there for the next 40 minutes, the frustration came out that way and I felt I had let the team down. “The knee was feeling good at the start of the game, so I didn’t come back too early.”

Reynolds has re-signed until the end of 2025 and said he was physically and mentally ready to honour the deal. “I am extremely confident. I wouldn’t have signed it if I wasn’t confident of seeing out my deal,” Reynolds said.

“I am a team player. I never want to let the team down and I won’t take the field unless I’m 100 per cent and willing to get the job done for the team.

“That attitude will stay right through until the end of my career.”

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