NRL 2022: Josh Schuster v Kieran Foran in Manly halves showdown

Manly superstar Tom Trbojevic has weighed in on the looming showdown between rising star Josh Schuster and veteran Kieran Foran which threatens to unsettle the Sea Eagles’ season.

Superstar Tom Trbojevic believes there will be no “immediate” change to Manly’s halves combination despite Josh Schuster’s camp making inquiries about a promise to play the rising star at five-eighth.

Schuster’s management has reached out to the club reminding them of a promise made during contract negotiations that the 20-year-old would wear the Sea Eagles’ No.6 jumper.

The deal was made under CEO Stephen Humphreys, who is no longer at the club. It’s believed several clubs are monitoring the situation.

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Halves showdown: Josh Schuster wants Kieran Foran's No.6 jersey - and Tom Trbojevic has weighed in on the battle.
Halves showdown: Josh Schuster wants Kieran Foran's No.6 jersey - and Tom Trbojevic has weighed in on the battle.

Since re-signing until the end of 2024, Schuster, who had a breakout 2021, has mostly played in the backrow with coach Des Hasler opting for Kieran Foran at five-eighth alongside captain Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves.

Foran is without a contract for 2023 but the rejuvenated playmaker has been one of Manly’s best and is looking to play on beyond this season.

“He is obviously skilful and talented enough, there are no doubts about that. I don’t think that’s coming from Schuey himself but I think the best fit for us right now is Schuey playing second row with Foz (Foran) and Chez (Cherry-Evans) in the halves there,” Trbojevic said.

“I don’t see that changing in the immediate future but definitely in the long-term I can see Schuey making the transition into that spot and being our five-eighth.”

Josh Schuster (C) has been given certain promises about playing in the halves. Picture: NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous
Josh Schuster (C) has been given certain promises about playing in the halves. Picture: NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous

Schuster hasn’t played this season but is on track to return from an ankle injury as soon as next week.

Trbojevic has also pencilled in round nine’s clash against Wests Tigers for a return from knee surgery after a month on the sidelines.

“It’s going well. I’m not too far away … they said around a month so hopefully it will be next week. I kept playing when I did it, it was a bit sore after but a couple of days later they made me get a scan,” Trbojevic said.

Trbojevic’s comeback will ease one centre headache for NSW coach Brad Fittler.

Fellow Blues centre and South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell is racing the clock to overcome a hamstring injury before the side for game one is announced in late May.

But Trbojevic has backed Cronulla wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai to deliver in the Origin arena if called into the side.

Manly's Tom Trbojevic and Sean Keppie with ex-Parramatta player Steve Dresler CEO of Whatability. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts
Manly's Tom Trbojevic and Sean Keppie with ex-Parramatta player Steve Dresler CEO of Whatability. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

“Talakai would be awesome. Guys like Talakai and Kotoni Staggs are just two of the great centres that NSW have to pick from … whoever Freddie (Fittler) decides will do an awesome job.

“We are still a few weeks away, there is a lot of footy to be played between now and then but I’m sure Freddie will make the right call.”

Talakai’s destructive runs down Cronulla’s left edge tortured Manly centre Morgan Harper last Thursday night.

After missing six tackles, Harper was hooked for Tolutau Koula in the second half. Koula has been named to replace Harper for Friday night’s clash against South Sydney.

But Trbojevic believes Harper will bounce back from the forgettable performance.

“He is going OK. I think the criticism, and the way everyone was talking about him, has been a bit unfair,” Trbojevic said.

“He is an integral part of our footy team. He was awesome for us last year and he has been awesome for us at the start of this year.

“Everyone has bad games, myself included. I get that people want to talk about it but it’s not really fair. I know he’ll bounce back well, I’ve got no doubts about that.

Morgan Harper had an unhappy night against the Sharks. Picture: NRL PHOTOS
Morgan Harper had an unhappy night against the Sharks. Picture: NRL PHOTOS

WALKER’S EMOTIONAL TRIBUTE BEFORE MILESTONE MATCH

By Brent Read

A week of celebration for South Sydney star Cody Walker has begun with a public mea culpa and a shedding of tears.

Walker will play his 150th game for the Rabbitohs on Saturday night at Central Coast Stadium against Manly, the latest landmark for a player who had to wait until he was 26 to make his first appearance in the NRL.

The personal milestone will play second fiddle to the needs of the team as Souths attempt to find some form after an indifferent start to the year.

The latest loss against the Wests Tigers caused plenty of introspection among the Rabbitohs’ senior figures, most notably Walker and Damien Cook.

With the game on the line last weekend, the ball somehow found its way into the hands of forward Jai Arrow after Lachlan Ilias was pressured off his attempt at field goal.

Cody Walker put his hand up for the field goal mix-up against the Tigers. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Cody Walker put his hand up for the field goal mix-up against the Tigers. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Arrow’s shot was so poor even premier Dom Perrottet — a Tigers fan — took the chance to have a laugh at his expense on social media.

Walker and Cook put their hands up on Tuesday, acknowledging they should have taken more ownership of the moment rather than thrusting it into the hands of rookie Ilias.

“To be honest, it is not something that comes into my head straight away — the field goal,” Walker said. “I always go for the try. That is probably a mindset I need to change being the senior playmaker, and put Lachie in positions where he is comfortable.

“That is probably a bit of my fault. I should have been better in that regard, knowing where we are at the time. I will wear that on the chin.

“We know that Manly we are always in that tight sort of tussle over the past couple of years. We understand that it could be a tight game this weekend.”

Cook added: “The whole set was wrong on the weekend. We have to learn from that. At the start of the season we should have had that (field goal set-up) in place. It is definitely on us. He (Ilias) has been one of our best players but we could have helped him a bit better.”

Cody Walker will play his 150th NRL game this weekend. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
Cody Walker will play his 150th NRL game this weekend. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Walker has been there himself, albeit a long time ago. He made his first grade debut at Souths after stints at Gold Coast, Penrith and Melbourne. The talent was always there but it took some time for Walker to mature and find his place in the game.

“It has been quite a journey,” he said. “As I look back and reflect on the start of my NRL career, I was quite happy to play one. I have reached some pretty significant milestones.

“It means the world. Looking back and reflecting on my career, it never seemed possible. Just because of my journey, where I have been and what I have been through, it is a pretty big game for me.

“So many emotions come thought my head when I think about the people who have been in my corner. The years of struggle have built up a fair bit of character and resilience in me.

“I didn’t want to give up on anything.”

Cody Walker didn’t make his NRL debut until he was 26. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
Cody Walker didn’t make his NRL debut until he was 26. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

He will spare a special thought this week for his mother Linda Stewart.

Walker was in the middle of cooking dinner at his home in Sydney when he received the phone call four years ago that his mother had suffered a heart attack.

He honours her every time he scores a try by kissing his wristband and pointing to the sky. She will be at the forefront of his mind this week and he choked back tears as he spoke about her on Tuesday.

“She was absolutely everything,” Walker said.

“There are days when I do think about her a fair bit. When you reach milestones like this, those thoughts are more frequent and get a bit emotional, start to think about how proud she would be of me.

“Seeing her in the crowd would be pretty special. I know she is looking down on me.”


Originally published as NRL 2022: Josh Schuster v Kieran Foran in Manly halves showdown

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