Interim Cronulla coach Peter Sharp declared Shane Flanagan's exile from the Sharks a tragedy after steering the club to an impressive pre-season win over grand finalists Manly on Friday.
Flanagan is under a year ban from the NRL, which he is understood to be appealing, over governance issues at the club in 2011, which remains the subject of an ASADA investigation.
Judging by the Sharks' form in their 24-12 trial win over Manly in the first hitout of the year for both clubs, Sharp has the club primed for another finals assault.
But with the club also understood to be appealing a $1 million fine handed down by the NRL, the anti-doping issue looks set to drag into another season for the Sharks.
They progressed to week two of the finals last week dealing year-long with the issue and Sharp says it is business as usual in 2014.
"We are just trying to get on with it," he told AAP.
"It is far from an ideal situation.
"It is a tragedy if the truth be known.
"Everyone wants Flanno back on board, it is his team but we have to get on with it because that is the business we are in.
"But we are still running his structures and his systems so we have almost carried on with that ... but it is a tragedy."
Cronulla and Flanagan delivered their responses to their NRL breach notices last week but it is not known over what timeframe the game's governing body will make its final decision.
Sharp wants to see Flanagan back before the Sharks NRL season opener at home against Gold Coast on March 10.
"I will carry him up to the coaches box if he does come back and that is the way everybody talks in this place," Sharp said.
"So hopefully he will win the appeal and be back as soon as possible."
Regardless there was plenty for Sharp to like in the Sharks' win, which was essentially a 12-8 second-half victory when both side ran close to full-strength teams.
"It was a nice hitout for us," he said.
"With the footy we weren't too bad, we certainly have some work to do in defence but I thought we had some nice structures when we had the footy so that was pleasing."
Manly's Steve Matai left the field with an ankle injury but coach Geoff Toovey said it was only a precaution and the Kiwi centre would be fine.
Who is your pick for international league player of the year?Related story: (See story)