Mounties host the Hills District Bulls in Round 23 of the Sydney Shield. Image: David Napper.

East Campbelltown Eagles (6) v Belrose Eagles (7) – Elimination Final
St Marys Leagues Stadium, Saturday 2 September
12pm

They might be positioned just one place apart on the final Sydney Shield ladder, but make no mistake: the East Campbelltown Eagles will be heavy favourites leading into the first elimination final at St Marys Leagues Stadium.

The season has not yet brought the successes that the defending premiers enjoyed last year, but with a solid recent run of form they will vividly remember how that success came about in 2016. The only team in any NSWRL senior competition to win from outside the top four, East Campbelltown came from fifth to win three big finals games and defeat the highly-fancied Mounties in the decider.

That win will be fresh on the memories for Mark Baird’s men, but Belrose will also know they will have to be at their best to progress to Week 2. Star fullback Christian Bate, named in the Sydney Shield Team of the Year, will need to be at his best to give his side the upset win, while East Campbelltown boast three players in the season’s best 17: centre Ben Baker, prop Frederick Tevaga and second-rower Mason Talolua. The likely omission of Baker will be a blow to East Campbelltown, but they will still be a force to be reckoned with on Saturday afternoon.

Guildford Owls (5) v Cabramatta (8) – Elimination Final
St Marys Leagues Stadium, Saturday 2 September
4pm
Streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au

The Owls take on Cabramatta as, once again, significant favourites at St Marys, having scored 124 more points and conceded 138 fewer this season. Guildford will also be buoyed by their two previous defeats over Cabramatta this season; while the first win came in the shape of a 62-10 thrashing in Round 2, the second was still convincing as the Owls ran out 40-22 winners.

Guildford have also been strong to finish their regular season with four wins from six appearances, which also included that one-point loss to East Campbelltown two weeks ago. Cabramatta took six points from their past six games, but only one of those wins came over a top-eight side – they defeated Belrose in Round 21.

It will surely be a matchup which Guildford will hope to win, but finals football is a new competition. As the only Sydney Shield game streamed exclusively on NSWRL.com.au, it shapes as one not to miss.

Mounties (1) v Asquith Magpies (4) – Qualifying Final
St Marys Leagues Stadium, Sunday 3 September
11am

Once again, Mounties enter the Sydney Shield Finals Series as deserving minor premiers – and once again, every other team will lift to try and get the better of them.

Mounties will remember that feeling all too well after they were pipped at the post by East Campbelltown in the 2016 decider, despite finishing the regular season four points clear of the rest of the competition. The top of the Sydney Shield ladder is much closer this time around, but Mounties have still won five more games than their Sunday opponents and will feel good about their chances of earning the week off.

Mounties enter this clash in some red-hot form, which included a 36-0 drubbing of Asquith just two weeks ago. While the Magpies have been playing solid football in the business end of the season, they will need to learn a lot from that loss if they are to be any chance of causing an upset.

St Marys Saints (2) v Wentworthville Magpies (3) – Qualifying Final
St Marys Leagues Stadium, Sunday 3 September
3pm

Just points difference separated St Marys and minor premiers Mounties this season, but that’s not the only similarity the teams share heading into this week. Like Mounties, the Saints came up against their qualifying final opponents a fortnight ago and like Mounties, they enjoyed a win which will fill them with confidence this weekend.

Wentworthville were victorious over St Marys back in Round 11, however, when they were in a purple patch that saw them lose just three games in the first 16 rounds. They now haven’t won any of their past three games – which included a draw last week – but having beat both Mounties and the Saints this season they know they can match it with the top teams.

Nicki Toomata and Jack Miller will both line up in the second row for the Magpies, fresh from being named in the Team of the Year, while St Marys’ Fuimano Enese, Aiden Glanville and Tyler McCann also achieved the honour. Enese will not play on Sunday afternoon, but the sides are set for a thrilling encounter on the Saints’ home turf.

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