Before Penrith and South Sydney can entertain serious thoughts about finishing the year as premiers, they first need to navigate this top-four showdown.
Their qualifying final will be played at 7.50pm on Saturday in the second of the double-header at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville.
The winner secures a week off and a spot in the preliminary finals while the loser will find themselves in a loser-goes-home contest in week two of the post-season.
Penrith were beaten grand finalists in 2020 but their fans will be hoping the experience they gained from that journey will help get them one step further this year.
The Panthers are coming off an emphatic win over Parramatta in the final round even though the Eels did field a depleted side.
Sportsbet Betting Preview - Panthers vs Rabbitohs
South Sydney will say goodbye to star No.7 Adam Reynolds and coaching great Wayne Bennett at the end of the season.
They hope that's with the club's 22nd premiership secured.
Match: Panthers v Rabbitohs
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Panthers: In late changes for the Panthers Moses Leota is out due to a calf complaint and Matt Eisenhuth moves into the starting side in his return from a rib injury. Liam Martin will also start and Viliame Kikau goes to the bench.
Fullback Dylan Edwards won't play due to what the club described as a minor foot injury. Stephen Crichton moves to fullback with Charlie Staines the new winger.
Edwards and Brent Naden were the two players left out 24 hours before the match. Izack Tago is 18th man.
Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary has scored 56 points in his past four games against the Rabbitohs.
Rabbitohs: The Rabbitohs are 1-17 with no late changes. Taane Milne was the last man cut and Patrick Mago is 18th man.
Skipper Adam Reynolds said on Monday he was in no doubt to play after being given the week off following a knee concern a fortnight ago.
Blake Taaffe keeps the No.1 jersey after filling in for the suspended Latrell Mitchell in the win over St George Illawarra in round 25.
Alex Johnston, Dane Gagai, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Thomas Burgess, Jai Arrow and Cameron Murray are rested and ready to go after their week off.
Keaon Koloamatangi returns from suspension to bolster the pack.
Braidon Burns, Lachlan Ilias and Jed Cartwright were omitted 24 hours before the match.
The Rabbitohs scored 100 points in three finals games in 2020.
Match: Panthers v Rabbitohs
Finals Week 1 -
Fullback for Panthers is number 2 Stephen CrichtonFullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Blake Taaffe
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Alex Johnston
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Paul MomirovskiCentre for Rabbitohs is number 3 Dane Gagai
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Matt BurtonCentre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Campbell Graham
Winger for Panthers is number 20 Charlie StainesWinger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Jaxson Paulo
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome LuaiFive-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody Walker
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam Reynolds
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Rabbitohs is number 8 Mark Nicholls
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai KoroisauHooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien Cook
Prop for Panthers is number 18 Matthew EisenhuthProp for Rabbitohs is number 10 Tevita Tatola
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 Keaon Koloamatangi
2nd Row for Panthers is number 17 Liam Martin2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Jaydn Su'A
Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Cameron Murray
Interchange for Panthers is number 11 Viliame KikauInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Benji Marshall
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch KennyInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Jacob Host
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Spencer LeniuInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 16 Thomas Burgess
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Tevita Pangai JuniorInterchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Jai Arrow
Reserve for Panthers is number 19 Izack TagoReserve for Rabbitohs is number 21 Patrick Mago
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
- Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall
Jarome Luai v Cody Walker. They were the two contenders for the NSW No.6 jersey and have both enjoyed great seasons.
Walker's attacking numbers have been phenomenal while Luai remains a superb partner for Nathan Cleary. Expect both to have a major say in the outcome.
The Rabbitohs are going to need to be strong with their tackling. Penrith had the most tackle breaks during the season with 858. South Sydney were eighth in that category with 760.
Head to NRL Pick'Em and get pickin’ to win a share of $100,000 cash every week!