No nepotism in Dolphins deal: O'Sullivan

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Penrith's back-up halfback Sean O'Sullivan denies nepotism has handed him his first chance to become a starting playmaker in the NRL.

Following brief stints at Brisbane, the Sydney Roosters and Warriors, O'Sullivan joined the Panthers this year to serve as Nathan Cleary's understudy.

He will depart at the season's end to join the Dolphins, who have hired his father Peter as recruitment manager ahead of their inaugural season.

O'Sullivan's father played no part in the negotiations that brought his son to Redcliffe, though, and the halfback said it would be the "furthest thing from the truth" to suggest the family connection on its own landed him a three-year contract.

"When there was all that talk about it, it wasn't really true," he said.

"I know I've opened myself up to criticism by moving there. But how I play is obviously going to determine what (the media) says.

"(Criticism) is something that is going to be there but it doesn't really faze me."

Coach Ivan Cleary brought O'Sullivan to Penrith to deputise for his own son during the State of Origin period, and as an injury cover.

O'Sullivan completed his mission with a 100 per cent success rate. The Panthers were undefeated while Cleary recovered from shoulder surgery in the first three weeks of the season, and also won both games without their Origin players.

Cleary will return from holiday in Bali to resume halfback duties for this weekend's clash with Cronulla, and O'Sullivan concedes the best case scenario for the Panthers would be that he needn't play first grade again this year.

"I came to Penrith knowing that that would be the case," he said, "and knowing that this Origin period was something I really needed to nail for this club. I'm just glad we could get two from two."

For the remainder of the season, O'Sullivan will continue to perfect the art of copying Penrith's rival playmakers, so as to test Cleary and his halves partner Jarome Luai at training.

"I watch every game and if halves are doing certain things, I'm writing them down," he said.

"Me and Nath definitely try and learn what everyone is doing."

O'Sullivan said he had learned plenty from Cleary that he could take to the Dolphins.

"It's just his temperament, even off the field, how he prepares, and his mindset going into game," he said.

"His confidence is unbelievable. It's something that I'm striving for. I'll keep picking his brains as much as I can.

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