The Roosters were starting to look unbeatable before last week's final-round loss to the Rabbitohs - their second loss of the year to their arch-rivals.
Coach Trent Robinson might not be able to name his strongest side but the premiers have covered gaps well with minimal fuss all season.
It was a only a few weeks ago that the Rabbitohs looked like they had nothing left in the tank. But Wayne Bennett worked his magic and they won their final three games and will head into the rematch with their greatest rivals on a high after sending the Roosters crashing back to earth last week.
The Roosters and the Rabbitohs have played in 11 finals matches with Souths holding a 6-5 edge but nine of those games were played before World War II.
The last finals match between them at the SCG was in 1938, won by the Tricolours 19-10.
Match: Roosters v Rabbitohs
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
Roosters: No changes with the team to run out 1-17. Cooper Cronk dismissed concerns about a shoulder/neck injury. Angus Crichton was bumped to the bench when the teams were announced on Tuesday with Mitch Aubusson returning to the back row. Siosiua Taukeiaho (ribs) and Brett Morris (calf) will play. Sitili Tupouniua and Drew Hutchison dropped out of the reserves list on Thursday night. Lindsay Collins and Ryan Hall were omitted an hour before kick-off. The Roosters will play their 300th game at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Rabbitohs: Liam Knight, Junior Tatola and John Sutton have all passed concussion protocols and will take their places. George Burgess has been elevated to start at prop after his nine-week suspension. Junior Tatola drops to the bench and Dean Britt has been omitted along with Bayley Sironen. Connor Tracey and Mawene Hiroti dropped off the extended bench 24 hours before kick-off. The Rabbitohs have won seven of their past eight games at the SCG.
Fullback for Roosters is number 1 James TedescoFullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Adam Doueihi
Winger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel TupouWinger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Alex Johnston
Centre for Roosters is number 3 Latrell MitchellCentre for Rabbitohs is number 3 James Roberts
Centre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph ManuCentre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Campbell Graham
Winger for Roosters is number 5 Brett MorrisWinger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Corey Allan
Five-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Luke KearyFive-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody Walker
Halfback for Roosters is number 7 Cooper CronkHalfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam Reynolds
Prop for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-HargreavesProp for Rabbitohs is number 18 George Burgess
Hooker for Roosters is number 9 Sam VerrillsHooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien Cook
Prop for Roosters is number 10 Isaac LiuProp for Rabbitohs is number 10 Liam Knight
2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Boyd Cordner2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 John Sutton
2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Mitchell Aubusson2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Jaydn Su'A
Lock for Roosters is number 13 Victor RadleyLock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Cameron Murray
Interchange for Roosters is number 14 Angus CrichtonInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 8 Tevita Tatola
Interchange for Roosters is number 15 Zane TetevanoInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Ethan Lowe
Interchange for Roosters is number 16 Nat ButcherInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 16 Thomas Burgess
Interchange for Roosters is number 17 Siosiua TaukeiahoInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Mark Nicholls
Intriguing head-to-head clashes all over the park but it's hard to go past Luke Keary v Cody Walker. Some Roosters fans reckon last week's loss to the Bunnies was no surprise because Keary didn't play. James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Cooper Cronk are crucial to the Chooks' success, but Keary is the X-factor. Walker, meanwhile, has caught fire in recent weeks after being mired in a post-Origin slump following his red-hot start to the season.
For the Roosters to win
The return of Keary - he missed last week to witness the birth of his first child - not only eases Cronk's workload, it adds an important dimension to their attack. Put simply, when Keary is on, the Roosters are on. Tedesco and Mitchell love the bright lights of finals footy, while Angus Crichton will be out to make a lasting impression in his first finals game in Roosters colours.
For the Rabbitohs to win
Damien Cook, who tops the league for line-break assists and dummy-half runs and is top five in tackles made, must continue his recovery from a post-Origin slump of his own. The loss of Sam Burgess to suspension leaves them short of arguably their best big-game player, which means Cook, Walker and Adam Reynolds have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders to steer the Bunnies around.
Brett Kimmorley says
Luke Keary returning is huge and I think the Roosters win this game. Last week's battle was unbelievable for a game that meant nothing - the most brutal game of 2019 - and being a semi this week they'll take it to a higher level. The Roosters are the second-best defensive team in the competition and only a few points behind Melbourne in attack. They had the potential to lead by 20 at half-time last week and I see them making a massive statement on Friday. They'll show us how great they are and that they're the team to beat in 2019. Roosters by 10
Latrell Mitchell easily claimed the NRL scoring crown for 2019 with 251 points while also finishing equal-second in tries (18). Tedesco topped the league in line breaks (22) and tackle breaks (148). The Roosters were the highest-scoring team after 25 rounds (627 points) and scored the most tries (108).
And another thing ...
John Sutton is the first to admit he doesn't move as quickly as he used to, but the Rabbitohs veteran has a vital role to play in his team's finals campaign, especially with the Burgess brothers not as dependable as they once were. At 34 and with 333 games under his belt, Sutton debuted with Souths in 2004 and has never played for another club. Putting it in greater perspective, "Sutto" has played more games for the Bunnies than any other player in the club's proud 111-year existence.