Can Roosters conquer Rabbitohs to repeat history?
SYDNEY Roosters defeat South Sydney Rabbitohs 24-12 to claim the minor premiership.
No, the result of tonight's blockbuster clash at Allianz Stadium to kick off the final round of NRL home-and-away games hasn't been pre-determined.
That was the headline last season after the same teams met in the last round, the Roosters winning the clash before going on to beat Manly in the grand final.
Will history repeat, or can the Rabbitohs reverse that result and set themselves up for their first premiership since 1971.
The other team that will again have a big say in the minor premiership is Manly, which leads the Rabbitohs and Roosters by two points at the head of the standings, but has an inferior points differential.
The winner of tonight's clash will leapfrog the Sea Eagles, and stay there if the fifth-placed Cowboys can beat Geoff Toovey's men in Townsville on Saturday night.
If Manly can take the two points, however, they will finish minor premiers for the first time since 1997, and the Roosters and Rabbitohs will clash again next weekend in a qualifying final.
South Sydney received a huge boost to its chances when hooker Issac Luke was cleared of a dangerous contact charge by the judiciary, after being charged by the match review committee for kicking out at the head of Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis last week.
Luke convinced the judiciary members he had been concernbed for his life due to the pressure he felt on his neck in the tackle.
"I felt a lot of pressure going through my neck and I found it hard to breathe," the Kiwi international said.
"I was panicking about my neck being broken. I have kids that I want to put food in their mouths."
While Luke's argument earned him a reprieve, Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds elected not to fight his dangerous throw charge at the judiciary, accepting a one-match ban for a dangerous throw charge.
Coach Michael Maguire named five-eighth Luke Keary at halfback, with skipper John Sutton expected to return at No.6 after being sidelined since round 20 with a knee injury.
The Roosters will be without workaholic hooker Jake Friend after he underwent surgery on Sunday to remove fluid from his lungs.
The Queenslander, who averages 40 tackles a game, plays a key role around the ruck in providing opportunities for linebreakers Sonny Bill Williams and Boyd Cordner.
Friend's place will be taken by Mitch Aubusson, with Heath L'Estrange on the bench as back up.
Co-incidentally, Manly has also lost not only its first choice hooker Matt Ballin with a broken leg, but also back-up Jamie Buhrer who is gone for the season after rupturing his ACL against the Panthers last weekend.
That could force coach Toovey to turn to 20-year-old rookie Jayden Hodges, the cousin of Broncos star Justin Hodges, who has played just three senior games for the Cowboys and one for Manly.