THEY were the early season pace-setters but Wests coach Pete McLeod knows how quickly that can be whittled away down the stretch of the regular season.
Preseason Challenge Cup champions, the Devils shot out of the blocks with a draw and five straight wins in the opening round of the competition.
They’ve since hit some mid-season speed bumps, edged out 20-16 by Thirroul in round eight before being hammered 40-10 by Collegians a week later.
They got back in the winner’s circle with a 48-4 win over Corrimal last week, but McLeod said the performance against Collies was a reality check for his side
“When you play the good sides in the competition, if your effort’s not there, you can get taken to task which we did that day against Collegians,” McLeod said.
“We’re a young roster, it’s a bit different to some of the other teams, and we said we’d base our year on effort and energy. The guys have given that to me since the first session we did in February.
“You’re always going to have highs and lows throughout the year but it was a good lesson for our young guys to show that, no matter who you’re playing, if your energy’s not there you’re going to feel it on the scoreboard.
“It was good to get back and win [against Corrimal] on the weekend but we’ve know we’ve got a bigger challenge this weekend against Dapto.”
In the tightest Illawarra League finals race in recent memory, a minor premiership or missing he finals altogether are both possibilities.
With juts three games left in their regular season McLeod said the Devils need to re-find top gear quickly.
“You look at the competition it’s so close at the top,” McLeod said.
“There’s only two points between the top four teams and then two points down to Berkeley who’ve been going really well all year.
“The good form that we were in, that was two or three months ago now. There’s only three regular season games left.
“The boys are aware of that and we just have to work really hard to try and get those performances back to where we were eight weeks ago.”
Saturday’s clash against traditional rivals Dapto at Parrish Park promises to provide another stern test for the young Devils.
The Canaries knocked off Collegians at home last week, and McLeod said Michael Henderson’s men look to be finding form at the right time of the year.
“Hendo said at the start of the year that he was going to back end his efforts,” McLeod said.
“His boys are a bit older so he was going to start training a bit later. It seems to be working for them, they’re playing good footy at the moment and they’re a really good side.
“They’ve got a big forward pack with plenty of experience, experienced halves and they’ve added some youth in the outside backs with [Harry] Freebairn at the back.
“The competition’s so tough, you’ve got to play well each week to win. There’s no gimme’s so, for us, we’re fully focused on this weekend.”