NRL Rd 2 - Dragons v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: Sean O'Sullivan of the Panthers offloads the ball during the round two NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Penrith Panthers at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on March 18, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett has responded to speculation the Dolphins have made their ninth signing, denying that the club have made an approach for Penrith Panthers back-up halfback Sean O'Sullivan.

Long touted as one of the brightest young talents in the game, the Penrith junior has struggled to lock down a spot during stints at the Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors.

The Panthers brought him back to the west of Sydney on a one-year deal this season, with O'Sullivan starring during the opening rounds as he stood in for Origin half Nathan Cleary who was out with injury.

Cleary will miss more games around the Origin window, giving O'Sullivan another chance to shine in Penrith colours.

“I’m not going to lie about this - we haven’t signed Sean O’Sullivan,” Bennett told News Corp.

“We haven’t spoken to him, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t consider Sean down the track.

“I know who’s off-contract in the NRL and O’Sullivan is off-contract and he’s a player we may well want to talk to, but as of today, there’s been no conversations, no approach, nor have we tabled an offer.”

Bennett's response to the news comes following reports this morning from Wide World of Sports' The Mole suggesting the Dolphins will have the youngster on board for 2023 - with the 23-year-old currently having 24 NRL games to his name.

Sean is the son of Dolphins recruitment boss Peter O'Sullivan.

Bennett did confirm one aspect of the report - if any negotiations happen, it'll be he and CEO Terry Reader dealing with it, not the recruitment boss, suggesting reaching out to O'Sullivan could depend on the future of Cameron Munster and Anthony Milford.

“If he signs it will be my call in conjunction with Terry Reader (Dolphins CEO),” Bennett said.

“His father (Peter O’Sullivan) won’t be allowed to be involved. I won’t have that.

“I don’t know where we are going yet with our depth in the halves.

“Sean has shown at Penrith how useful he can be, he did a good job filling in for Cleary, but we don’t know which playmakers we will have on our books.

“A lot will depend on whether we can get guys like Cameron Munster and Anthony Milford.

“We won’t be jumping at shadows now, we have to stay patient with our recruitment because there’s still another six months to go (before the Dolphins’ first pre-season) and a lot of football to be played.

“We already have one halfback in young Katoa, but he’s only 18 and we will need more experienced guys to support him.”

The Dolphins have been widely criticised for their recruitment to date, which has brought five experienced forwards (Jesse Bromwich, Kenneath Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi, Ray Stone and Mark Nicholls), one outside back (Jamayne Isaako) and two players without NRL experience (Isaiya Katoa and Valynce Te Whare).

The list of players off-contract in the halves at the end of the 2022 season is beginning to look extremely skinny, with O'Sullivan among the best options at halfback - joined by Phoenix Crossland, Albert Kelly, Jock Madden, Brandon Wakeham, Kodi Nikorima, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Brandon Wakeham when it comes to players with NRL experience - while the list of five-eighths is even shorter - headlined by Kieran Foran, Lachlan Lam, Matt Moylan and Ashley Taylor.

Wayne Bennett, despite missing out on Kalyn Ponga this week, declared on Wednesday that he wasn't reaching for the panic button as the push to sign players continues.

Ponga was just the latest in a long line of misses for the club when it comes to marquee players, although reports suggest they have a number of players lined up with announcements to be made in the coming weeks and months in the lead up to the squad beginning training in November.

Under NRL rules, they must have 24 players signed by the first Monday in November.