THE Port Stephens Sharks are hoping former Queensland State of Origin utility Casey McGuire could lead the club off the bottom of the Newcastle Rugby League.
McGuire retired from Parramatta this season after a 150-game NRL career that included a premiership with the Brisbane Broncos in 2006.
The Newcastle Herald understands McGuire has been in negotiations with the Sharks for weeks to captain-coach the club next season.
Sharks officials have found employment for the 32-year-old's wife, Sam, but a possible job for McGuire at Westrac collapsed this week.
This has cast doubt on his move to Port Stephens, and Orange is also looming as an option.
Nelson Bay's close proximity to the beach is a major drawcard for McGuire, and his family have visited the area recently to scout potential houses.
Acting Sharks president Charlie Haggett was not prepared to comment at length yesterday, but confirmed negotiations were taking place.
"We're exploring several coaching options and Casey is one of them," Haggett said.
McGuire's vast experience, which includes two Origin matches for Queensland and four seasons with the Catalans Dragons in the English Super League, would be a massive boost for the struggling Sharks.
In the past two seasons the club has finished with the wooden spoon after winning only two games.
McGuire's ability to play hooker or in the halves would provide greater organisation for the inexperienced Sharks on the park.
Off the park his contacts in the rugby league community could attract more big names to the Sharks.
With Rip Taylor signing with Lakes United on Tuesday, the Sharks are the only Newcastle side without a coach for next season.
"All the players we've spoken to are pending who coaches the team, so for that reason we've got to finalise it soon," Haggett said.
The Sharks were initially linked to former Canterbury back-rower Jamie Feeney as a captain-coach, but the club was unable to find employment for him.
Other potential candidates include former Western Suburbs and Illawarra halfback Josh White or ex-Northern Pride under 16s coach Joe McGuire.
Sea Eagles legend Cliff Lyons has agreed to coach the Sharks in 2014 if required, but could not commit to next season due to being contracted to the Narraweena Hawks in the Manly A-grade competition.
Meanwhile, Macquarie have boosted their playing stocks by signing veteran Maitland hooker PJ Ellis.
Ellis won premierships in 2010 and 2011 at the Pickers, the first being under Scorpions coach Noel Dent.
In the semi-finals Ellis tore apart Macquarie from dummy-half to eliminate the Scorpions.
Dent is happy to have Ellis back on his side for next season.
"We have a good young nine [Andrew Sumner] and we think he'll benefit from PJ being there," Dent said.
"I think they will work well together next year with the interchange limited at 12.
"I've worked well with PJ before."
Ellis's signing follows prop Tom Pelo (Cessnock) and five-eighth Matt Everitt (Old Bar Pirates).
● Time is running out for Scott Prince to confirm a move to Hull FC after the English Super League club issued a "final offer" while setting its sights on Wests Tigers halfback Jacob Miller.
Prince is at risk of missing out on a lucrative three-year UK deal with his future at the Gold Coast Titans still unresolved and Hull FC hinting that Miller may provide more long-term value.
Though Prince was initially their "top target", Hull FC owner Adam Pearson said the race would now come down to who snapped up the Super League contract first. AAP