WESTS halfback Justin Rodrigues says a recent run of outs against the league's fellow heavyweights hasn't dented the Devils' confidence ahead of their finals campaign.
The Devils set the early pace this season, notching away wins over Collegians and Thirroul, an 18-4 win over the Butchers at Gibson Park shooting them to the top of the ladder.
It's been tough going since, with the Devils dropping return clashes to the Dogs and Butchers on their home turf, the latter seeing them drop out of the top two and into Sunday's minor semi-final clash with Helensburgh.
Rodrigues admits a similar run would have been confidence-sapping 12 months ago but says the big-game experience of claiming last year's decider has his side full of belief.
"Going in last year without winning those big games I think our confidence would have suffered a little bit," Rodrigues said.
"This year we know we've been there and done it so those performances won't be in our minds at all heading into these finals.
"We've been to Thirroul and beaten them there, we've been to Collegians and beaten them there. We won the big dance last year so we know what it takes to win the big games at this time of year.
"It's been pretty big build-up waiting for this time of year, ticking the boxes to get here. We've had a few hiccups of late but it feels good now that it's finals time and we're ready to go."
It's been a tough year for Pete McLeod's side, as premiership defences typically are, with the Devils dropping three games at Parrish Park.
Injuries and suspension have played a role int their late-season wobbles, but Rodrigues says arriving at finals time has breathed fresh life into his side.
"When you're the reigning premiers you know every team is coming for you each and every week," Rodrigues said.
"Everyone wants to dethrone the champions from last year and there's been times this year where it's been hard to get up for certain games.
"You need to maintain focus because you only get 12 opportunities to play in our comp. We've had some personnel out and it's been a bit of a balancing act trying to find out where our team best fits one to 13.
"When we've found it an injury or something else has derailed it and thrown it out the window. It's been hard to get that balance right but I think we've coped with it pretty well and we're just really pumped now that finals have arrived."
The path from the elimination final offers up the chance for redemption against the Butchers and Collegians down the track, but Rodrigues said his side certainly isn't sleeping on the Burgh.
"It's got danger game written all over it," he said.
"They're an aggressive attacking side that throws a lot at you with a lot of offloads. If it all comes off for them, they can be as good as any of the top three teams.
"There's a lot of threats there, it's a semi-final and we know either team can win this game."
The Devils have had an added distraction this week after the club was stripped of the club championship after an administrative error saw an unregistered player feature in nine reserve grade games.
A review saw the Devils undefeated reserve grade side stripped of nine win, seeing them drop out of the finals and Thirroul claim the overall club championship.
The club sought leave to appeal the decision on Friday but were denied by a CRL appeals review panel which determined it could not find any evidence that would give leave to appeal.
The finals draw will now go ahead as re-scheduled earlier when the sanction was first applied.