The return of crack ball-playing five-eighth-come-edge-forward Josh Schuster is the big news out of Brookvale ahead of Manly Warringah Sea Eagles clash with St George Illawarra Dragons on Thursday at CBUS Super Stadium.
After seven weeks out with a calf injury Schuster has been named in the starting lineup and will wear the No.12 of a ball-playing back-rower come free-running five-eighth.
Twenty-year-old Schuster – owner of arguably the best no-look pass in the NRL – will reprise his left edge combination with Kieran Foran, Brad Parker, Reuben Garrick and – here’s hoping for Manly fans – “Turbo” Tom Trbojevic who’ll be backing up 48 hours after State of Origin at the same stadia.
Manly and Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans has also been listed as halfback for the game against 8th-placed Saints.
All of this means – at least on paper, for now – that Dylan Walker and Karl Lawton slot back to the bench, Jack Gosiewski, Cade Cust and Moses Suli head to the fresh reserves while Ben Trbojevic slides out of the greater XXI. Tevita Funa is an “In” but will also ride the Gold Coast pine.
Whether Tom Trbojevic does turn out in the maroon of Manly remains to be seen. Yet sports science types (who have done studies) and anecdotal evidence from players points to it being less arduous to play 48 hours after Origin than to play four days later on a Sunday.
Regardless, it will be very good if Trbojevic is playing alongside Schuster, their combination on the left edge in attack could carve Saints up.
Sea Eagles physio James Rahme said power forward Toafofoa Sipley, named in the No.17 despite a shoulder injury suffered in the loss against Canberra Raiders, will be evaluated later in the week.
Meanwhile Jake Trbojevic will be given another week to overcome a hip injury, according to Rahme.
The Dragons will be missing Daniel Alvaro, Matthew Dufty and Paul Vaughan because they wanted to party despite their club and the NRL – their employers – saying it would be against the law.
The Saints did name fellow party boys Corey Norman, Jack De Belin, Jack Bird, Josh McGuire, Josh Kerr and Blake Lawrie because suspensions have been staggered over the next few rounds.
How they’ll react is anyone’s guess.
But after the loss against Canberra and with big guns back in the Best XVII, we’ll tip Manly by 16.