AFTER five seasons in the Illawarra Coal League, the Shellharbour City Sharks are considering moving back to the South Coast Group 7 Rugby League competition due to financial issues.
The Sharks have been on loan from Group 7 to the Illawarra league since the 2009 season, but at a recent meeting voted to explore the option of moving back to the South Coast competition.
"The vote the other night was whether we should explore the option of going back to Group 7, and that was a motion that passed," Shellharbour president Peter Blaine said.
"It's nothing concrete at the moment; it could be a return for next year or sometime after that.
"It's been a tough couple of years for us.
"We've put a lot of time and money into our ground and with the downturn in the area in the mining industry, we've lost some of our sponsors and we don't have a leagues club to back us like the bigger clubs in the Illawarra."
Despite having been somewhat successful throughout their stint in the Illawarra - their first grade side being regular semi-finalists and under-18s winning four premierships in five years - Blaine said the Sharks were unlikely to stay a competitive force in the competition, as they would not be able to match the payments offered to players by other Illawarra clubs.
While Shellharbour haven't set a date for a return to Group 7, any such move would leave the ICL with only seven first grade sides; something the league will seek to avoid.
"We'd like to keep them here if possible, but we know that they are on loan to us from Group 7 and if they want to return to Group 7 we won't stand in their way, " ICL chairman Ian Neill said.
"They've been very competitive in their time up here with us and we'd like to see them stay.
"If Shellharbour left that would leave us with only seven sides, which would be disappointing and something we'd prefer not to happen."
For the Sharks to return to Group 7 for the 2014 season, they would need to lodge an application before the league's annual meeting, to be held on November 13.
"At the moment I've had no communication, written or verbal, with Shellharbour," Group 7 secretary manager Jim McAuliffe said.
"Our AGM is in November, as there was no boundary adjustment when Shellharbour left. they would just need to apply to rejoin Group 7 by then, and then that would be put to the clubs to vote on."
McAuliffe said that any possible move by Shellharbour would not affect Port Kembla, who joined Group 7 from the ICL this year.