International forward Luke Lewis and fellow back rower Anthony Tupou appear to be the only two high profile Sharks set to be missing from the team list for the kickoff to the 2014 season.
Lewis, who underwent shoulder surgery to repair the damage after crashing into stadium fencing while playing in the Rugby League World Cup in November, has moved to the next phase of his rehabilitation and is hopeful of being back on deck by late March or early April.
He isn’t rushing his return however and but is finding the recovery process a lonely and frustrating one.
"I'm travelling all right," Lewis told the Sun Herald last weekend. "I started running this week, which is good ... It's slowly coming along, it's just taking its time.
“If you try and speed the recovery up, you can make it worse. It's just one of those things where you need to be patient. It's more frustrating than anything else right now because you see all the boys out on the field, ball in hand, doing their stuff and you're doing rehab or boring running.”
The initial diagnosis pointed towards an even longer stint on the sidelines, however Lewis believes he is ahead of his target, with round four his likely return date.
"It's a six -month recovery. We're coming into the ninth week now. It's meant to be another four months but I'm hoping to be back. My goal is round four, anything earlier is a bonus,” he said.
“I'm on track at the moment but there's a few other little things I need to do to ensure it all goes smoothly and then it's back on the park.”
Training mishaps notwithstanding, Lewis’s back row partner Tupou is the only other Shark set to be unavailable when the team for one round of the 2014 season is selected.
Tupou, who has had retched luck with injury in recent seasons, had a knee reconstruction after suffering an ACL tear in the Sharks qualifying final loss to the Sea Eagles last year.
Like Lewis, his recovery is progressing as to plan, with the former NSW and Australian second rower slated for a return sometime in May.
Of the other players battling niggling training injuries or recovering from off-season surgery, all are expected to be ready for when the Sharks host the Titans in round 1.
John Morris will be back on the training paddock in the coming days after a minor elbow operation, Beau Ryan is recovering after having a surgical procedure performed on his neck and fullback Michael Gordon escaped the rehab group and rejoined his teammates in fulltime training just last week after having a plate removed from his ankle.
The plate in Gordon’s ankle was inserted following a serious break while still at the Panthers some two seasons ago.
Having near to a full contingent to choose from for round one is sure to give the club a boost heading into the beginning of the year, with Lewis, while not looking for miracles right from the start, was optimistic about the Sharks chances as the season progressed in 2014.
"We took a while to get going last year when we hit our straps around rounds six or seven,” Lewis said. “We've all played a bit more football together now and we know one another's game. I'm a big believer we'll need a few things go our way, though. We need our halves on board and, if we can keep our team on the park consistently we'll go really well."
The Sharks are currently training with an eye to the upcoming trials, with the Dick Smith Auckland NRL Nines sandwiched in between, scheduled for the weekend of February 15-16.
The first trial game will played on Friday, February 7 against Manly, the second in opposition to the Wests Tigers on February 22, with both trials to be contested at Remondis Stadium.