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The eyes have it: Secret to 'gifted' prodigy Schuster's prowess

Waqa Blake looked awfully lonely for 80 long minutes at Bankwest Stadium last weekend.

The blue and gold centre found himself more than once with only Josh Schuster's bright green eyes for company.

Schuster duly made Blake's afternoon a misery each time they made eye contact.

Granted, several of Blake's defensive decisions haven't come from the top shelf over the past 12 months, but he won't be the last centre left in no-man's land by the budding Manly maestro either.

"He looks at the defenders, holds the defence, no-look [pass], gets Waqa Blake in two minds," Immortal icon Andrew Johns observed in Channel 9 commentary when Schuster piloted Karl Lawton over in Sunday's 28-6 trouncing of Parramatta.

The 20-year-old's no-look passes, with Schuster instead locking eyes on his chosen defensive victim, has brought him into the elite company of Sam Walker, Reece Walsh and Matt Burton in a crop of kids with the NRL at their feet.

Schuster's prowess against Parramatta had Johns this week naming him as 18th man in his NSW Origin squad.

No look Schuster pass puts Lawton over

Sea Eagles captain and halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans has been coached by Johns and sees Schuster at close quarters daily.

"Joey makes it sound easy, Schuey makes it look easy. But for the rest of us, it's a lot of hard work," Cherry-Evans tells

"Passing a footy, everyone looks it at as the basic part of our job - you just do it.

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"But some people, and Josh definitely has it, they have this gift with their hands.

"To see him showing that so early on in his career, you just want to give him the ball and give him the opportunity.

"I've been lucky enough to have Joey talk through exactly what he sees and what he means when he worked for Manly.

"I still look at those conversations and my games today. Josh is very lucky, he's picked some of that up already just naturally in his development.

"I think that's why Joey was speaking so glowingly about Schuey, because this stuff isn't easy, so to get parts of it at such a young age is so impressive."

Schuster tips the scales at 110 kilos – a full 32 more than fellow teen prodigy Walker – and took an initial NRL introduction at back-row in his sizeable stride.

It's since been floated that Des Hasler has a selection headache given Schuster's superb five-eighth form and Kieran Foran's return from a broken hand in a few weeks.

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In all likelihood, moving Schuster back to the second-rower slot and having both playmakers only adds another dimension to an increasingly potent attack.

Especially when Schuster posits himself in and through the defensive line just as Foran did as a teen playmaker himself more than a decade ago, throwing no-lookers to keep Hasler and the rest of us right on the edge.

"Des definitely doesn't like it," Schuster laughed of his no-look service.

Schuster and Turbo draw in the defence and Parker scores

"But he just told me to play what's in front [of me], play your game and that's what I'm doing at the moment.

"Ever since I was a young kid I grew up with a football. I used to sleep with a football every day. I loved being around football.

"I'd go to the park in front of my house practising those passes to a pole and it's obviously paying off.

"Now if you dig into the line then you create opportunity for Turbo [fullback Tom Trbojevic] out the back and he always ices those moments.

"I know Tom's there. I dig into the line and he'll be there. Whatever's best for the team, I'll definitely do it."

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Cherry-Evans came to prominence at the same time as Foran, Shaun Johnson and Josh Reynolds, all playmakers with a penchant for playing off-the-cuff and through the line as much as possible.

The 32-year-old says Hasler has always given him a "safety net" in the form of team structure and, in turn, a licence to live dangerously.

He sees the same for Schuster and the rest of 2021's creative cohort, with the young Manly five-eighth lining up in the halves again against Newcastle - where his All Black uncle John was a fan favourite in the 1990s - this Sunday.

"Sometimes at training [Schuster] does some things and you shake your head thinking 'jeez that was shocking'," Cherry-Evans says.

"And then he'll go out in a game and do something and you're doing the same thing thinking 'how skilful is that?'

"You don't want that ever coached out of anyone, it's about harnessing that in a young half.

"I know I'm certainly a player who's come up with some real shocking kicks and passes over the years, like it or not that's just a part of my game.

Silky from Schuster and Turbo Tom again

"I know Des has always encouraged me to just back myself and play what's in front, I don't see it being any different for Josh.

"… What I see with a Schuster, a Walsh, a Walker - they look like they're just playing footy, having fun and playing to their strengths.

"It's something you can't coach, it's something you are born with and learn from experience.

"I love watching them play. I don't want to ever see it coached out of them. It's just great for the game."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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