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Master vs apprentice theme permeates NRL finals draw

Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon says he's relishing testing himself against long-term mentor Trent Robinson as the Sharks face the Sydney Roosters in a winner-takes-all elimination NRL final.

The Roosters, who surged their way into the top eight with five straight wins, have looked in ominous touch in recent weeks and are expected to be buoyed by the return of Joey Manu.

Robinson joked after Friday's win over South Sydney that he had leant on Fitzgibbon's Sharks to beat the Roosters' rivals for a top-eight spot over the last month.

But now there are unlikely to be any favours in return with Cronulla keen to prove they can be heavyweights come September after Sunday's 24-6 win over Canberra locked up a home final.

"It is a good opportunity for us and our club," said Fitzgibbon, who worked under Robinson for more than a decade.

"Any semi that you play is a privilege because you earned the right through a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices from staff and players.

"So any one of them is a privilege, irrespective of who you're playing.

"All that stuff (with Robinson) will heat up later in the week."

The theme of old faces meeting each other is littered throughout week one of the finals series. 

Brisbane's Kevin Walters was on Craig Bellamy's staff for years.

He will seek revenge against Bellamy and Melbourne on Friday after the Storm prevented the Broncos claiming the minor premiership in the final round of the season.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary will be facing a familiar foe in Andrew Webster, who has masterminded a revival of the Warriors.

The Panthers-Warriors game has been shifted to the earlier timeslot on Saturday to allow it to hit primetime television in New Zealand.

Canberra face the most arduous of tasks, heading to Newcastle to face a Knights side on Sunday who haven't lost at McDonald Jones Stadium since April.

The Raiders have won just two of their last seven and have a depleted pack with Seb Kris staring at a lengthy suspension.

"I don't know if anyone knows we're in the finals," said Canberra coach Ricky Stuart.

"I'm so proud of these blokes, they've exceeded all (external) expectations.

"Good on Adam O'Brien, he was getting sacked three months ago, he's turned it around and shoved it up all those people."


FRIDAY: Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm, Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

SATURDAY: Penrith Panthers v Warriors, BlueBet Stadium 4.05pm.

Cronulla Sharks v Sydney Roosters, PointsBet Stadium, 7.50pm.

SUNDAY: Newcastle Knights v Canberra Raiders, McDonald Jones Stadium, 4.05pm.