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

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

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

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

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“I haven’t been this nervous for a game in so long. Yesterday I was at my wit’s end,” O’Sullivan admitted in a post-game interview on Nine.

“It was so good hanging out with this group of boys. What they’ve built (over) the past three years is just admirable, looking from afar. I was so glad I got to come in. They were so much help.”

O’Sullivan’s father is NRL recruiting guru Peter O’Sullivan, who left the Warriors for the Dolphins at the end of the 2021 season.

O’Sullivan said he was so tight-lipped about his Panthers debut that he waited until Tuesday, the day the rosters were revealed, to tell his parents the news.

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“I’ll let the cat out of the bag. I’ve known that for a while. Sorry dad, sorry mom,” O’Sullivan said.

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

“I had been very clear (over the past) two weeks with what I had to do, and I’m just glad I got to execute it.”

O’Sullivan was a local junior and said he was thrilled to be returning home.

“The last time I wore this shirt we played (an) SG Ball Grand Final on this exact pitch,” O’Sullivan said.

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“Just coming back, learning from Nathan and Jarome and (coach) Ivan (Cleary) has been a blessing. Honestly, I’m so grateful to be here and, honestly, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

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

The Panthers’ home win gave their premiership defense a perfect start.

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

The Panthers will meet the Dragons in the second round of the season, while the Sea Eagles will face the Roosters.

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