It's been far from the season that he had envisaged but Collegians coach Reece Simmonds is confident his side are preparing to make a strong charge at the finals in three weeks time.
The defending premiers produced some outstanding performances this year - chiefly a 50-26 demolition of joint leaders Thirroul in round six - but have struggled since with a horror injury toll.
The low point was a 62-0 thumping at the hands of the Butchers two weeks ago while Simmonds was on tour with the Country under-16s side.
The Dogs returned to the winner's circle last week with a 38-20 win over Corrimal.
The fifth-placed Dapto, who host the Dogs in the penultimate round, would need three straight wins to unseat them.
With star prop Jarrod Hickey - who hasn't played since the round-six victory over Thirroul - making a possible return this week and Country rep back-rowers Jarrod Thompson and Blake Williamson set to return from Country's tour of Hawaii next week, the Dogs will boast a pack equal to any other side come finals time.
"We as a group believe we're not done and dusted. Yes we haven't had the best five or six weeks but we know if we can get to the semis it's a different ball game and we know we can challenge the teams above us," Simmonds said.
"Jarrod Hickey's 50-50 this week but having him back in the team with Jarrod Thompson and Blake Williamson, we'll see a bit of a difference I think.
"Moving forward we've got four games, with a catch-up game against Corrimal, so if we can string four good performances together we'll go into that first semi with a fair bit of confidence."
Wests are also battling injuries; former NRL back-rowers Danny Williams and Brendan Oake are notable absentees.
Devils utility Trent McLaughlin said coach Jason Ryles challenged his side to lift this week after their 30-6 loss to Thirroul in their last outing at home.