The Sharks have come from behind to swamp Canberra and earn a home elimination final in week 1 of the 2023 playoffs, clinching the final available berth in the top eight in the last match of the regular season.
Cronulla will take on the Roosters at Shark Park on Saturday with Craig Fitzgibbon set to face off with his long-term mentor Trent Robinson in a winner-takes-all elimination NRL final.
Newcastle will host the other sudden-death stoush on Sunday against the Raiders, who finished eighth after the Roosters skipped ahead of them with their Friday night win over South Sydney.
Penrith and Brisbane are in the box seat heading into the NRL finals with the premiers and Broncos scoring home-ground advantage for their qualifying finals with a chance to advance directly to week 3 on the line.
The Panthers will take on the Warriors at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday after wrapping up the minor premiership at the same venue with their big win over the Cowboys in Round 27.
The Warriors rested several players and dropped to fourth with a loss to the Dolphins in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon.
Brisbane will meet Melbourne for the second week in a row at Suncorp Stadium but both teams will field vastly different line-ups on Friday night in the playoff opener after resting several stars in the Storm’s victory last Thursday night.
Kevin Walters will seek revenge against Craig Bellamy and Melbourne on Friday after the Storm prevented the Broncos claiming the minor premiership.
The winner of those two matches will advances directly to the preliminary finals while the losers go into sudden-death footy.
In the bottom half of the top eight, Newcastle notched their ninth straight victory and sealed fifth spot on the ladder by beating St George Illawarra at Kogarah on Saturday night.
Souths missed the finals for the first time since 2017 after leading the comp at Round 11 while ninth-placed North Queensland dropped to 11th after their disappointing trip to Penrith with the Eels jumping them into 10th with the bye in the final round.
Qualifying final 1: (1) Penrith vs (4) Warriors at BlueBet Stadium – 4pm on Saturday, September 9
Qualifying final 2: (2) Brisbane vs (3) Storm at Suncorp Stadium – 7.50pm on Friday, September 8
Elimination final 1: (5) Newcastle vs (8) Canberra at McDonald Jones Stadium – 4.05pm on Sunday, September 10
Elimination final 2: (6) Cronulla vs (7) Roosters at PointsBet Stadium – 7.50pm on Saturday, September 9
The loser from the Broncos-Storm game will host a week 2 clash with the winner of the Sharks vs Roosters clash while the Panthers-Warriors loser will be at home in the second round against whoever wins Sunday’s stoush in Newcastle.