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Penrith Panthers’ Sean O’Sullivan makes startling admission after replacing Nathan Cleary


Playmaker Sean O’Sullivan revealed after his first game in Panthers colours that he was “a nervous wreck” a day before debuting for the club.

O’Sullivan crossed from the Warriors to the Panthers at the end of the 2021 season and got an immediate run in the top grade in the absence of the injured Nathan Cleary.

O’Sullivan, who’s played with the Roosters, Broncos, Warriors and Panthers in a chaotic 22-game NRL career, joined Jarome Luai in the halves as Penrith charged to a 28-6 season-opening victory over Manly on Friday night.

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“I haven’t been that nervous for a game in so long. Yesterday I was a nervous wreck,” O’Sullivan admitted in a post-match interview on Nine.

“It was so good just to come out with this group of boys. What they’ve been building (over) the last three years is just admirable, watching from afar. I was so glad I was able to come in. They were so much help.”

O’Sullivan’s dad is highly renowned NRL recruitment guru Peter O’Sullivan, who departed the Warriors for the Dolphins at the completion of the 2021 season.

O’Sullivan said he had remained so tight-lipped about his Panthers debut that he had waited until Tuesday, the day team lists are revealed, to break the news to his parents.

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“I’m going to let the cat out of the bag. I’ve known for a while. Sorry dad, sorry mum,” O’Sullivan said.

“I just had to kind of keep it to myself, and that’s what I had to do for the team.

“I had been really clear (over) the last two weeks with what I needed to do, and I’m just glad I was able to execute it.”

O’Sullivan was a local junior and said he was rapt to return home.

“The last time I wore this jersey we played (an) SG Ball grand final on this exact ground,” O’Sullivan said.

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“Just to come back, learn from Nathan and Jarome and (coach) Ivan (Cleary) has just been a blessing. I’m honestly so thankful that I’m here and, honestly, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Cleary is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and is expected to miss at least the first three rounds of the season.

The Panthers’ home win got their premiership defence off to a perfect start.

They managed to beat the Sea Eagles comfortably despite having two tries disallowed in controversial scenes early in the match.

The Panthers will meet the Dragons in the second round of the season, while the Sea Eagles are set to square off with the Roosters.

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