Helensburgh Tigers have point to prove
Helensburgh captain Steve McCallum admits he was struck by a painful sense of deja vu when a Nathan Fien field goal sunk the Tigers in the major semi-final two weeks ago.
Fien's field goal from dummy-half in the second period of golden-point extra time put the Butchers into the grand final.
It followed a miraculous Sam Duggan drop goal that denied Helensburgh their first title since 1993 in last year's decider.
The Tigers earned a shot at grand final redemption with a 22-16 win over Wests in last Sunday's preliminary final after trailing 16-6 at half-time.
The Tigers trod a similar path to last year's decider after suffering a close loss to Collegians in the major semi-final en route to their grand final heartbreak and McCallum said that, while there were perhaps unwelcome similarities, this year his side were determined to use the hurt as motivation to go one better against their rivals.
"There was a bit of deja vu there," McCallum said.
"But we just got together on the Tuesday and said 'That's done now, we've got to put it behind us'. All we thought about was getting the win against Wests. We managed to use the loss as motivation to make sure it didn't happen again.
"We're looking forward to Sunday now and we'll use whatever motivation we can to get the result."
A gruelling 90 minutes of football against the Butchers appeared to take its toll against the Devils, who ran in three tries to lead 16-6 at half-time before the Tigers reeled them in with a brave second-half fightback that was sealed only when Jason Raper crossed for the match-winner three minutes from time.
It leaves the Tigers nursing some battered bodies ahead of Sunday's rematch with the Butchers following 170 minutes of relentless finals football but McCallum said the tough road to the decider would be to his side's advantage.
"It was a bloody good win," he said. "We were down and out there in the first half and showed our ticker to come back and get the win.
"It steels us for the grand final now. We've pulled up all right and two tough hard-fought games puts us in good stead, I think. We know we've got the players there to do the job."
There was no splitting the two sides during the regular season with the ledger at one win apiece with one draw, and McCallum described it as "fitting" that the northern rivals would face each other on grand final day.
"I think we've been the two best teams all year so it is the two best teams in the final," McCallum said.
"There'll be a big crowd there because both clubs have a pretty big following, so it's going to be a great game. We can't wait."