Taking on the best teams in the league and fellow premiership hopefuls during the run home to the finals is the perfect way to end the regular season, according to Melbourne Storm vice-captain Dale Finucane.
The Storm disposed of the highly-rated Rabbitohs 26-16 in Gosford on the weekend and host the third-placed Raiders at AAMI Park on Saturday night as they attempt to maintain their place at the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder.
Both the Rabbitohs and Raiders loom as possible opponents for the league leaders in the first week of the finals and Finucane believes playing against those sides is the perfect preparation for what lies ahead in September.
"You want to be playing these style of games heading into the back end of the year to know what you are going to be coming up against come finals time," Finucane said at AAMI Park on Wednesday.
"Playing South Sydney gave us a good gauge of where we are at the moment because they are a top-four football side and playing the Raiders this weekend will give us an even better gauge.
"We want to be hitting our straps over the next four weeks heading into the finals."
Are we headed for a grand final rematch?
A triumph over the Raiders will all but seal the minor premiership for the Storm, with the gap over the second-placed Roosters currently six points with just four rounds remaining in the regular season.
The Storm missed out on the minor premiership last season when they were stunned 22-16 by the lowly Panthers in the final round and Finucane said finishing the year on top would be an excellent recognition for his side.
Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Storm
However, the experienced lock said there is only one game that really counts and his side will be judged on whether they can make up for last year’s heartbreak and claim the premiership this season.
"A lot of hard work goes into that (winning a minor premiership) and you are rewarded for your season's work, but the big game is the one at the end of the year," he said.
"It would be an accolade for our team, but it’s probably not the biggest driving force as a team."
And while Finucane knows how well the Storm have performed so far this campaign, he thinks there is still plenty of room for improvement as his side attempts to be cherry ripe for the finals.
"Craig (Storm coach Craig Bellamy) has spoken about it in recent weeks that we can always refine our attack, so that’s always an area for us to work on," Finucane noted.
"We have been quite strong defensively over the year ... I do think there are areas for improvement in our attack."