Cronulla are hoping suspended coach Shane Flanagan will be given the green light to return by the NRL when he sits before a panel later this month.

With a horror year almost behind them Cronulla are hopeful Shane Flanagan will be given the green light for an early return from his NRL-imposed suspension.

Flanagan will sit down in front of a panel that includes the code’s CEO Dave Smith and integrity unit lawyer Nick Weeks within the next 10 days to start discussions on a potential three-month discount on his 12-month ban.

The 48-year-old was sanctioned after the NRL deemed he and former strength and conditioning coach Trent Elkin failed in their duty of care to players during the 2011 season.

Smith said when he imposed the suspension last December that Flanagan could potentially return after nine months providing he completed an intensive education and training course that focused on his responsibilities as a coach.

But there was speculation that because of the recent bans issued to Sharks players Paul Gallen, Anthony Tupou, Nathan Gardner, John Morris and Wade Graham by ASADA that Flanagan may be blocked from a September 17 return.

However, an NRL spokesperson confirmed the code would only be able to enforce that option should Flanagan fail to follow the guidelines laid down by Smith.

“This case only relates to the duty of care issue,” the spokesperson said.

“We can’t act on anything else until we’re issued with information by ASADA.

“The panel will decide what happens now when they sit with Mr Flanagan and hopefully that will be in the next week or so.”

Sharks chief executive Steve Noyce said he had no idea what way the NRL was leaning but was confident Flanagan will be planning pre-season before the end of the month.

“From our point of view, we’re aware of the breach notice conditions,” Noyce told AAP.

“There’s an opportunity there that subject to fulfilling all these conditions, the suspension is reduced to nine months. We’re very hopeful that will happen and that’s the plan we’re working to.”

Experienced back-rower Luke Lewis said he’ll be glad to see the end of 2014, a year that saw the Sharks’ squad decimated by injuries and reluctant stand-in coach Peter Sharp quit mid-season.

The Sharks have already clinched the wooden spoon but Lewis is confident with Flanagan at the helm, along with the arrival of Michael Ennis and Mitch Brown from Canterbury, it will give the club a big lift.

“I am looking forward to 2015 being a better year and training with guys like Mickey Ennis and Mitch Brown,” Lewis said.

“To be honest I haven’t talked to Flanno and nor have any of the boys, but I do know he’s been active in doing everything possible to return.

“But it’ll be good to get the old crew back.”

Sharp, who openly admitted he didn’t want to be a head coach, walked away from the job in July handing the role to rookie under-20s coach James Shepherd.

But Lewis has nothing but praise for the role played by the pair in such difficult circumstances.

“It was hard when Flanno got stood down, but I have to give credit to ‘Sharpy’ and ‘Shep’.

“Shep has been outstanding for us the last four weeks. He gave a lot of the young boys a crack and has worked hard on a lot of things we haven’t worked on for a while.”