WHEN the Wentworthville lost 44-10 to the Auckland Vulcans at the start of the August, it meant two things: the Magpies had slipped out of the top eight and they had conceded 100 points in two weeks of football.
In a season full of ups and downs; it was the definite down.
Magpies coach Brett Cook knew they weren't far away. But one thing needed to change.
"Our attitude to defence was the main problem," he said.
"We were not playing all that bad but we were handing teams a lot of their points.
"After that game in New Zealand I thought we were in a bit of trouble in terms of making the finals but the boys have bounced back and worked hard to get things right."
The hard work has paid off with three straight wins against teams above them on the ladder. Their win against the minor premiers in waiting Cronulla Sharks 32-12 at the weekend was their best performance of the year.
A first half hat-trick by backrower Daniel Harrison was instrumental in the victory which secured their place in this year's finals series. So what has been the change?
"We have got a bit of stability in our side and some blokes are getting used to playing with each other and are committed to each other and that has been a big boost," Cook said.
"The group of guys at the moment are really plying for each other which is a great sign."
Cook said this year has been tougher than most with the constant turnover of players in the NSW Cup.
The good news is they are starting to get some players returning from the NRL.
Last week prolific point scorer Jake Mullaney made his return to the black and whites and made an immediate impact in a grade his dominated for the past two seasons.
The Magpies will also have NRL players Semi Radradra, Pat O'Hanlon and Peni Terepo available for selection for week one of the finals.
"It's a good problem to have because there are plenty of form players to pick from," said Cook, whose team could move to seventh with a win against the Illawarra Cutters on the weekend.
"This week is important to continue to build what we have been working on and continue the momentum we have built."
Cook said prop forward Walter Vaeau, hooker Brendan McKinnon and five-eighth Aaron Fluke have been instrumental in the team's run of good form in the past month.