Josh Schuster's career with the Sea Eagles is reportedly on the line after it was announced coach Anthony Seibold would fire him for the second time this season.
The 22-year-old was benched again in round 25 and played just 26 minutes without a single run and just seven tackles with one miss.
Rugby league legend Gorden Tallis believes Schuster is wasting his talent, while veteran rugby league reporter Phil Rothfield revealed the moment that made Seibold decide.
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“It's harder not to have a run than to have a run in the back row, I've said it before, there's not much he can't do on the football field,” Tallis said on NRL360.
“It's his effort. You would die to have his skills, that's what he does off the field.”
“It's interesting that you say what he's doing off the field because when they hooked him up after 20 minutes, they expected him to get dirty and explode,” Rothfield said.
“After the game he just carried on as usual in the shed. At that point, Anthony Seibold was convinced it was time for a (change).”
NRL 360 host Braith Anasta asked if his form was due to Schuster having a “false sense of reality” after he was paid a hefty salary for his potential rather than his form.
The Sea Eagles re-signed the youngster on a four-year deal reportedly worth $3.2 million, fending off Tigers' interest.
Schuster was also sacked for the first time ahead of his contract extension to improve his fitness, with captain Daly Cherry-Evans providing some apt words to turn the tide.
Schuster's situation appears to be back at square one, however, and Rothfield wondered if the Manly authorities planned to sack him.
“He didn't do the hard work, his teammates complained about it. Did Manly make the right decision with his signing?” Anasta asked.
“The off-season will be particularly important…I don't see any way Manly can terminate his contract through a performance clause, it would have to be for a disciplinary reason,” Rothfield said.
“You can't just cash him out,” Brent Read said.
“I'm not saying they're going to pay him off, I'm saying you can go to his agent and see if you can find him a deal elsewhere,” Rothfield replied.
“He needs to get hungry… Des tried to get him fit last year before he was sacked.”
“I have no problem with them re-signing him. The bigger issue is the amount they paid for the re-signing,” added Read.
“They were competing with themselves, there was nobody but them interested in signing him.”
Schuster's hefty $800,000-a-year salary is an additional headache for the Sea Eagles as four players earn $4 million of their salary cap.
Along with Schuster, Jake and Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans earn handsome salaries, leading Rothfield to propose that the club give up his five-eighths.
“If we're here next year and we're talking about him not competing and getting hooked, they're definitely going to try to sell him,” Rothfield said.
“They can't dump him a third time… he wouldn't be the first big name to get fired, they could put in $300,000 and give him to Shane Flanagan in St. George for $500,000.
“He trained him, he knows what he's capable of, Flanagan is keen to bring some quality to the Dragons squad.”