Canberra coach Ricky Stuart fired a thinly-veiled barb at the NRL over the scheduling of the finals series as the Raiders faced up to the daunting task of an elimination final away to Melbourne on a six-day turnaround.

The Raiders booked their spot in the top eight with a 56-10 demolition of Wests Tigers on Sunday to set up a trip to AAMI Park next Saturday.

Canberra came through the game unscathed with captain Elliott Whitehead and five-eighth Jack Wighton rested.

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Halfback Jamal Fogarty was also given an early mark.

But Stuart will only have a handful of days to prepare his side for the trip south as a result of the NRL’s finals draw.

By contrast, the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs were selected to play on the Sunday in week one of the finals, with both sides afforded nine days between their round 25 game and their elimination final rematch.

“I’m just happy to be in the semis,” Stuart said. “We are a club that’s very used to getting the short straw.

“I thought we would play on Sunday and then when we had 24 hours less (until the game) I thought to myself I’d make a couple of changes.

“Because we are playing on the Saturday that gave me the idea to rest a few players.”

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart fired a thinly-veiled barb at the NRL. Credit: AAP

Cronulla, who played their final game of the season against Newcastle on Sunday, will also play on a six-day turnaround when they host North Queensland on Saturday.

Stuart, however, will be able to take heart from the way the Raiders have performed in the back end of the year to rack up seven wins from eight games and surge into the top eight.

The Raiders also haven’t lost to Melbourne at AAMI Park since the 2018 season and he said the return of Fogarty was the catalyst for their late-season revival.

“We had belief three months ago and we spoke about the situation we were in,” he said.

“We got our halfback ( Fogarty) back and we were building a bit more cohesion.

“We’ve timed this (run) perfectly.”

Try-scoring second rower Hudson Young says Canberra aren’t content with merely making the finals. Credit: AAP

Who plays who in the NRL finals, week one

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

First Qualifying Final

1-Penrith Panthers v 4-Parramatta Eels at BlueBet Stadium, 7.50pm (All times AEST)

Parramatta will be gunning to show the rest of the competition they are a premiership threat and after consistently failing to fire come finals time. The Eels are the only side to have beaten the Panthers twice this year and will be confident they can repeat the act on Friday after swatting Melbourne aside last week. Panthers coach Ivan Cleary opted to rest most of his starting side in round 25 with the aim of coming into this one fresh. He’s also helped by the return of son and the team’s star halfback Nathan from suspension.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10

First Elimination Final

5-Melbourne Storm v 8-Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park, 5.40pm

Canberra have Brisbane’s late-season collapse to thank for their rise into the eight along with a 7-1 record at the back end of the season. Ricky Stuart’s men will be confident that they can advance given their record in Melbourne since the start of 2019 reads: played four, won four. There are question marks over the fitness of Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes and Craig Bellamy will need to see more from his pack against Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine after the Storm were outgunned by Parramatta last week.

Melbourne’s Nick Meaney is in pain but says he’ll be fit to play in the NRL finals. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Second Qualifying Final

2-Cronulla v 3-North Queensland Cowboys at PointsBet Stadium, 7.50pm

Rookie coach Craig Fitzgibbon has guided the Sharks to their highest finish since 1999 and will believe they can advance to a preliminary final. North Queensland have enjoyed an incredible revival under Todd Payten in 2022 but heading to PointsBet Stadium comes with a caveat. The Sharks have only lost at their home ground once all year and the Cowboys will lean heavily on the experience of ex-Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend to get them over the line.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

Second Elimination Final

6-Sydney Roosters v 7-South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium, 4.05pm

A rematch of the round 25 clash between these two sides looms as a blockbuster end to week one of the finals. The Roosters got the win last Friday but there are concerns over the fitness of Joey Manu, Victor Radley, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Daniel Tupou. Souths also have a question mark over Cameron Murray after his latest concussion and were blown away by the Roosters in the opening half an hour.

The Wallabies stun Springboks with scorching try.

The Wallabies stun Springboks with scorching try.