Fiji Sports | Rugby League | SPORTS

Koroisau: It’s Mental

The price of a premiership means no side is ever quite the same and Ivan Cleary could be about to face his toughest turnover yet as Api Koroisau pre­pares to walk away from a poten­tial Penrith Panthers dynasty.
01 Oct 2022 16:00
Koroisau: It’s Mental
Panthers hooker Api Koroisau in Sydney on September 28, 2022.

The price of a premiership means no side is ever quite the same and Ivan Cleary could be about to face his toughest turnover yet as Api Koroisau pre­pares to walk away from a poten­tial Penrith Panthers dynasty.

Nathan Cleary looks at Koroi­sau and sees a hooker who can do things “I haven’t really seen any­one else do”, one whose leadership is underrated by most but certain­ly not by the star halfback and Dal­ly M captain of the year Isaah Yeo.

Koroisau is hoping to close the chapter on his second stint at the Panthers with back-to-back prem­ierships at Accor Stadium tomor­row night, just as his Parramatta counterpart Reed Mahoney is looking to leave the Eels with a drought-breaking title that will etch his name into blue and gold folklore.

Koroisau is joined in Penrith’s departure lounge by Canterbury Bulldogs-bound back-rower Vil­iame Kikau, and Cleary says the hooker will be “very hard to re­place” as he prepares to cover for two of the biggest pieces in the Panthers’ premiership puzzle.

“He’s had the best year of his career. He’s just pulling the right rein at the right time. He’s very calm, he’s really experienced now as well,” Cleary said.

Mitch Kenny has started in both of the Panthers’ finals victories this year, but it is when Koroisau is injected into the contest that Penrith look their most dangerous, revealing he has deserted a phys­icality-first mentality to harness his potential.

The two-time premiership winner has played a crucial role in unlock­ing the best of Panthers halves Cleary (Jnr) and Jarome Luai dur­ing the best year of his career, with the NSW Blues jersey and the num­bers to back it up.

Koroisau has 12 try assists and 13 line-break assists in 24 games this year – numbers that almost eclipse the total set by the collective group of Kenny, Peter Wallace, Sione Ka­toa, Wayde Egan, Mitch Rein and James Segeyaro while wearing Penrith’s No.9 jersey between 2016 and 2019.

“It’s mental. All I ever used to think was ‘You’re a dummy half, pass the ball off the ground and when it’s your turn to run, then you get out there and try to steal metres’,” Koroisau said.

“I try to run the ball sometimes but most of the time, I’m just try­ing to get to certain people to have those good runs and get us those quick play-the-balls. It’s become a lot more mental.

“I’ve stopped trying to be the run­ning dummy half. If opportunities come, then I’ll run the ball. A lot of the time, it’s about trying to get people to the advantage line, get them to the right spots, and it’s working pretty well.”

The fuse was lit for a forward bat­tle at Thursday’s fan event in the city.

Every player in the backline shook hands with their counter­part when they walked on stage, but the forward packs all kept their distance.

Eels prop Junior Paulo suggests it’s a forward’s mentality at play, and Koroisau’s influence cannot be discounted with the two packs vowing to get the better of each other tomorrow.

Koroisau is set to join the Wests Tigers on a two-year deal and ad­mits the prospect of bowing out of Penrith – newly minted premier­ship ring around his finger or not – is likely to leave him in tears at full-time.

“I know the emotions are going to hit me like a train after the game,” Koroisau said. “I’ll be crying, it doesn’t matter (whether we win or lose), I’ll be crying.”

Story By: Caden Helmers (Sydney Morning Herald)



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