NRL: What departure of Warriors recruitment boss Peter O'Sullivan means for the club
By: Michael Burgess
Sports writer for NZME
Peter O'Sullivan admits that some former Warriors targets will now be in his sights, as he starts work building the roster at the Dolphins.
After being in charge of the Warriors' recruitment, retention and development strategy for the last three and a half years, O'Sullivan made a sudden switch
to the NRL expansion team last week after being headhunted.
Monday was his first official day at the Dolphins, who will become the competition's 17th team in 2023.
It coincided with the opening of the NRL negotiation period, with clubs allowed to begin talks and submit offers to players who are off contract in 12 months' time.
It means that O'Sullivan will be discussing deals with prospects who he had originally earmarked for the Warriors.
"[There are] some that are certainly going to cross over, there is no doubt about it," O'Sullivan told Newstalk ZB. "Then there are some that are going to come into play that weren't in play."
It's a spanner in the works for the Warriors.
The club hierarchy are hopeful it will be business as usual, with chief executive Cameron George and coach Nathan Brown
taking on more of a recruitment role until the position is filled, but the timing of his departure is far from ideal.
No one knows more about the Warriors' roster or salary cap situation than O'Sullivan and now he is a competitor.
The Dolphins could make a play for Joseph Manu (Roosters) and Marata Niukore
(Eels), who are two of the Warriors' principal targets in this window, with O'Sullivan having put together the bids.
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett has previously worked with Warriors' halves Kodi Nikorima
and Ash Taylor
and may try to lure them to Brisbane for 2023.
And what about Reece Walsh
? O'Sullivan famously got him from the clutches of the Broncos and knows his Warriors deal inside out.
O'Sullivan's move was swift and unexpected.
He had been planning for 2022 – with the hope of spending more time in New Zealand – when he got a phone call last Tuesday with the Redcliffe offer.
"I had a bit of a think about it and I suppose like a player, I was off contract next year and you get a good offer at an exciting new franchise," said O'Sullivan. "That was a big part of it for me, the blank canvas and the chance to work at a brand new club, which I hadn't done before. It was too good an opportunity to knock back."
O'Sullivan arrived at the Warriors in May 2018. He had previously been deregistered at the end of the 2016 season – for breaches of the NRL's betting rules – but the Auckland club was able to register his contract with the governing body.
O'Sullivan was tasked with reshaping the club's roster and strengthening development pathways. It hasn't been easy for the Warriors to attract premium talent over the years but O'Sullivan took a proactive approach.
and Addin Fonua-Blake
were two of his biggest signings, while he helped get Shaun Johnson
back to the club. On the debit side, he was part of the decision that saw Isaiah Papali'i leave last year while Kane Evans
was a poor choice.
For his part, O'Sullivan departs with mixed feelings.
"It's exciting times but sad at the same time," he said. "The thing I am going to miss most is not watching Rocco [Berry
], Eli Katoa
, Walshy, Viliami [Vailea
] and others really find their feet in first grade."
"That's the part that weighed on me the most. I'm really proud of where [the Warriors] are at the moment; a strong squad, good depth, positionally pretty good and a far bit of money up their sleeve."
"The cap is in far better position than when I got here. The roster is strong, with lots of growth imminent, so they are in position to make some inroads and get some further impetus into the roster. That is the slight missing link but I am sure in the next few months that will take shape."