Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary.

The Roosters will welcome back four or potentially five top-line stars when they take on old rivals the Rabbitohs for the second time in eight days.

Friday night's SCG qualifying final blockbuster will pit the two foundation clubs against each other for the third time this year and the second time in successive weeks.

The Rabbitohs have taken bragging rights this season with victories in round one and round 25.

However, the Roosters will be a far different proposition this week with playmaker Luke Keary (personal reasons), prop Siosiua Taukeiaho (ribs), winger Brett Morris (calf) and forward Mitch Aubusson (ankle) all set to return and co-captain Jake Friend (broken arm) a strong chance of making his first appearance in the 21-man team sheet since round 18.

If Friend does play it will be just his sixth appearance for the season.

"I had a bit of an ankle injury which on the five-day turnaround I couldn't quite shake," Aubusson said on Monday.

"I had those extra few days to get it right and I'm good to go. For the other guys I think everyone's pretty much fighting fit and good to go.

"We don't use [their absence] as an excuse and we're disappointed we got rolled last week but it's a new season so everyone starts fresh and we're so excited to grow into these semi-finals."

Cooper Cronk welcomed the return of the senior players but stressed the team needed to play better than what it did the previous week regardless of who is available.

"Your top ended talent in your football team is that, your representative players are that because they bring a different aspect," Cronk said.

"The way we've played our football throughout the year is that we have absolute faith in players number 25, 26, 27 on our list so it's great to have guys back but essentially if they're not available we still think we can compete and do the job."

Cronk said the round one loss was down to Souths starting the season on fire, while last Thursday's defeat was mostly down to a five-minute lapse from the Roosters which allowed Campbell Graham and Cody Walker to score.

"We let ourselves down through individual accountability," he said.

"At this time of year you want to play the best teams, you want to be tested, you want your game style to hold up under pressure, you want to be physically and mentally through the ringer as well.

"That's what this is about. There's no excuses come eight o'clock on Friday night, there's two teams who will be very well coached and drilled and prepared.

"The best thing about it from my position is that on Friday night there's only 34 players that have a say in the game and I'm one of them and that's pretty cool."

Match: Roosters v Rabbitohs

Finals Week 1 -

Full Time
Roosters

Home Team

Roosters

Scored 30 points
Rabbitohs

Away Team

Rabbitohs

Scored 6 points

Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network
  • FOXTEL
  • LIVE PASS

Cronk has only been a Rooster for two seasons but this will be his sixth meeting against the Rabbitohs in that time, meaning he is now well-versed on the old rivalry.

"One thing we learned coming here to the SCG is the history of rugby league before any of our time," Cronk said.

"The SCG holds more memories of rugby league than any other stadium in Australia. Souths versus Roosters at the SCG week one of the finals is pretty cool. Pretty exciting for an old bloke that's only got a couple left!

"I love it. These rivalries are built on history and respect and a little bit of angst thrown in but that's what makes sport these days as long as it's played within the rules of the game. You've got to embrace it, love it, drum it up."

Barring injury there are now between two and four games left in Cronk's phenomenal 369-game career but he said the way his career finishes is trivial compared to ensuring his club finishes this season on a high.

"Personally I don't give two hoots how many games I've got left," he said.

"I care about this footy club and how many games it has left [this year]. The playing group have been sensational to me in my time so I'm on this journey to repay the faith and the sacrifices they made for me to come here.

"Personally I don't care if my last game was last Thursday or this week or whenever it is but I do care about this football cub and its last game so I'll be doing everything I can to make sure it's the first Sunday in October."