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Peter Sullivan: Ready for a new Jersey

Peter Sullivan: Ready for a new Jersey

If you’ve ever been to Jersey, you’ll know it is a tranquil place with a vibrant heart. Nestled in the English Channel, it is a picturesque island boasting sandy beaches as well as lush countryside.

Not so long ago, it also used to have a rugby club. 

Sadly, following a vote by the island’s politicians to end financial support of Jersey Reds, the Championship title-holders ceased trading in October after being unable to fulfil their payroll obligations.

Peter Sullivan was one of a number of Irish players caught up in the debacle. The former Connacht Rugby winger had only pitched up at Jersey last summer, moving in with former Munster Rugby duo Eoghan Clarke and Alex McHenry. He had settled nicely, making a try-scoring start to his Reds career.

“We were due to fly to England early one morning to play a match in Cornwall,” he recalls. “I was fast asleep when Alex [McHenry] knocked on my door to tell me that the CEO had called a meeting at the clubhouse with the squad instead. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought the match had been cancelled or someone had died.

“A few members of the board were there to meet us, along with a lawyer. They spoke for about 15 minutes before dropping the bombshell that we were no longer trading and there was no plan to try and save the club. The room just fell silent with a collective sense of shock.

“I didn’t really know how to react to be honest. It was all a bit surreal. There were so many emotions in the room as everyone dealt with it in their own way. And then the chaos ensued. I know the squad didn’t want it to happen.”

As one of the world’s leading offshore financial centres, it’s understandable that the news was met with disbelief. Jersey’s robust economy, low taxation, and strategic location have attracted an influx of high-net-worth individuals, solidifying its reputation as a haven for prosperity and reinforcing the island’s status as a symbol of wealth and success.

“It’s an expensive place to live,” Sullivan adds. “The first thing a lot of us did was flood the internet with various items to sell. Our house was like central station. People were calling to buy our sofas, beds, fishing rods… anything we could move on.

“As the announcement came the day before payday, a lot of the lads needed money to get back home. The people of Jersey were fantastic and offered to help in any way they could. Some ladies even held a coffee morning and gave our house the £100 they had raised.  

“Our team manager put on a bit of a fundraiser to rally some support too, but pretty quickly it became clear that the club was gone. We couldn’t understand the lack of fight, and lack of clarity about the situation. The group still hasn’t been given a thorough explanation which is disappointing.”

While he had only been in Jersey for a matter of months, Sullivan had integrated into the squad really well and had been embraced by the wider community. As a thriving Championship side, the locals were extremely proud of their team. So too were the players who had formed a tightly knit group driven by an excellent team culture led by Head Coach and former England hooker, Rob Webber. 

“One of the main reasons I joined was because I knew I was coming into a very talented and ambitious group with a lot of amazing players and great coaches. There was also a very open and honest kind of atmosphere where people were encouraged to be themselves.

“I really sensed that something special was building and we had the ability to go on and earn our place in the Premiership but there’s no point mulling over what might have been. The reality was that people’s livelihoods were at stake and there was no time to waste.

“Since the club folded, everyone has been looking out for each other. Unfortunately, some lads found themselves in really tricky situations and then there are guys, stalwarts of the club, who had built a life for their families on the island and deserved better. Naturally, they couldn’t move at the drop of a hat like the rest of us.”

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom Maher

Back in Ireland now, Sullivan has linked up with his old friends at Lansdowne where he still holds the club record for the number of tries scored in a single AIL campaign. However, while he continues to actively seek out professional options, he also understands that at this stage of the season it may take an injury or suspension to a peer to force his way back into the equation.

“Once I realised Jersey was a closed shop, I had to focus on myself, on staying positive and looking for new opportunities. I established a routine and have been keeping in shape. I’ve worked off the basis that something will come up. I’m not the kind of person to give up.”

Most outfits would undoubtedly be fortunate to have such a reliable performer on their books. A good defender and communicator, Sullivan is also an excellent finisher with a penchant for tries by virtue of his considerable pace and strength. Indeed, his professional career to date has seen him score against the likes of Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Exeter Chiefs, Edinburgh and the Stormers.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The winger has also showcased his abilities on the international stage with the Ireland Sevens and U20s over the years. However, it was with Connacht Rugby where he cut through into the professional ranks. Yet, despite a hatful of tries over the course of 21 appearances, the province chose not to extend his contract in 2022 – much to the surprise of many.

“Ups and downs are part and parcel of professional sport,” he concedes. “I’m not the first to experience them, and I won’t be the last. As with the Jersey situation, there’s no point agonising about things. I have to stay positive, look forward and ensure I’m ready for the next opportunity.   

“I come back to the belief I have in my abilities. And I know that if I put the work in, and stay resilient, I’m giving myself the best chance of success, wherever that may be.”

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