Orange CYMS have pulled off one of the biggest coups in Country Rugby League history, securing the services of former NRL star and 2010 premiership-winning captain-coach Michael Sullivan until the end of 2016.
The new five-year deal will, on top of the year the 30-year-old still has to run on his current contract, effectively see the former Canterbury and Cronulla rake remain with the green and golds for life.
No other club in CRL history has signed a former top-flight rugby league player on such a deal.
Sullivan said the next six years could be the biggest in CYMS’ history.
“(Five years) is a long time but both parties were pretty happy with last year and we both know what to expect from each other and hopefully that’s the case in the future and we bring a few premierships to the CYMS rugby league club,” Sullivan said.
But will he have the runs in his legs come the age of 35?
“Definitely. If my brother (Scott) can run around until 37 or 38 I’ve definitely got ’til 35 in me. Like I said Mudgee have been a successful side in Group 10, Bathurst Panthers, too, and hopefully this era will be CYMS.”
The Wingham Tigers junior debuted for the Northern Eagles in 2000 before going on to star in 61 first grade games for the Cronulla Sharks between 2003-2005.
He later went on to play for Warrington in the English Super League for two seasons.
In 2008 he linked back with the NRL and the Canterbury Bulldogs where he made just 12 appearances in two seasons.
In total he played 111 first grade matches.
So was a return to the NRL ever an option?
“No when I left I always said it was always going to be my last year in the NRL,” he said.
“With my injuries the 12-game comp suits me down to the ground out here and (the NRL’s) week-in, week-out training and the extra games wouldn’t suit my body at the moment.
“I’ll look after it over the years and try and bring some success to the club here.”
In 2010 Sullivan took Orange CYMS on a dream ride through the Group 10 premier league competition, helping them take out their first premiership in 22 years with a 23-16 win over Mudgee at Wade Park.
Sullivan said security and the chance to mentor the club’s best up and coming talent helped him make what was eventually an easy decision.
“I chopped and changed in my NRL career and this year, like I said, both parties were very happy. We had a lot of success and hopefully we can enjoy a bit more,” he said.
“I didn’t want to chop and change (clubs). There is a good chance to see the juniors come through and if I make promises and then take off in a year or two and not see those promises fulfilled, I don’t want to do that.
“Guys like Sammy Hill, Mitchell Britt, Kyran Bubb, those guys are going to be regular faces if they stay around out this way and it’d be nice to help develop their careers.”
Sullivan played the majority of last season’s drought-breaking campaign injured after having plates inserted in his foot late in 2009.
The foot problem hampered his running game and by his own admission, he was only ever playing at 80 per cent.
In 2011 Sullivan will be fitter than ever.
“The body is holding up a lot better than last year. It was still a big learning curve for me last year. As a player I think I matured a lot,” he said.