Shellharbour president Peter Blaine has confirmed the former Dragons feeder club is serious about a return to the Group Seven competition.
Blaine would not rule out the possibility of spending a sixth year in the Illawarra Coal League, but said the costs of fielding a competitive side in the Illawarra's premier rugby league competition had prompted the club to consider its options.
"We're just exploring our opportunities, but there is a bit of concern about the long-term future of the club.
"We've had a vote to explore the possibility of going back [to Group Seven]," Blaine said.
"It's still up in the air.
"We haven't made a formal submission to Group Seven.
"We've let the Country Rugby League know our intentions to explore the opportunity and that's as far as it's gone."
Shellharbour had a strong year on the field, winning nine of 14 games, but Blaine said there were doubts over whether the Sharks could remain competitive long-term.
"We can't compete on the open market for players and how long players will keep playing for us for less money we don't know."
"We don't have a major leagues club behind us, so we rely wholly and solely on sponsorship and donations, and sponsorship dollars are getting harder and tighter."
"We've had to lean on a lot of volunteers every off-season for the last three years."
"It's getting tough. Everyone's tired and funds are short."
Blaine also said costly renovations at Ron Costello Oval had drained the club's finances.
Blaine, who will stand down as president of the Sharks in December after 14 years at the helm, said he wanted to leave the club in the best possible position for the long term.
"I've got to be mindful of the longevity of the club," he said.
"It's certainly a very good competition the Illawarra comp, but not if we're going to send the club broke."
Blaine admitted the Sharks could lose players who wished to remain in the Coal League, but said the club's coaching staff had been locked in.
"At this stage, regardless of what competition we'll be in, Ryan Powell will be the coach," he said.
As Shellharbour considers it's future, Berkley has allayed fears it could be forced to sit out next year's competition due to dwindling player numbers.
Berkley requested a meeting with the Coal League board on Tuesday night, but president Richard Ford was adamant the club was fully committed to the competition next year.
"At the moment, we're pushing along with first grade," he said.
"We had some issues that we needed to discuss but nothing's changed.
"Lachlan Russell's been appointed [coach] for months."
"We've got some local blokes on board and that's [recruitment] in progress at the moment."
"Financially, we're very sound; there's absolutely no issues," Ford said.