THE upcoming South Coast Group 7 Rugby League competition is shaping up as one of the biggest in the Shellharbour City Sharks' lengthy history, with preparations for their much-anticipated return to the competition already in full swing.
After a roller-coaster decade in which the club took part in four different leagues under three different guises, many in the league community say the Sharks are now back where they belong; facing off against traditional rivals in Group 7. One of those is newly-elected Sharks chairman Allan "Reg" Cody.
"Being in the Coal League was necessary when we were competing in the Jim Beam Cup and the NSW Cup in Sydney, and those were great years, but that's all behind us now," Cody said.
"The environment for us has changed since we left those competitions and being back in Group 7 is definitely the right thing for our club.
"We've got a brand new committee with brand new ideas, we've got fantastic new facilities at Ron Costello Oval and we've put together a good group of players with a good coach in David Walsh.
"We're all looking forward to a successful 2014 season."
Walsh returns to the head coach's role after a stint in charge of the Dapto Canaries in the Illawarra Coal League.
The former Steeler is excited to be back.
"When the opportunity came up to come back and coach Shellharbour I couldn't have been happier," Walsh said.
"I've lived in the area for a long time and I've got a good relationship with a number of the players here, so I can't wait for the season to get under way."
The 43-year-old said that he was enthusiastic about the playing squad that was being assembled and that the proportion of home-grown talent was particularly pleasing.
"It's not just the big names like Bronx Goodwin and Craig Stapleton," he said.
"I'd say about 90 per cent of the team is made up of local boys, and that's probably the most exciting thing because you know they're all here for the right reasons.
"But even though I think we've recruited well, there's no denying that there's a lot of talent that has left the club and some of these local guys coming back are going to have to step up and fill that void."