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Party pooper: Api eyes Smith souvenir as mentor exits stage left

Api Koroisau is planning to steal Cameron Smith's spotlight, and then snare the ultimate grand final souvenir as one of the biggest influences on his career quietly exits stage left.

Sunday's grand final will pit the Penrith hooker up against Smith for what is feeling like the future Immortal's 430th and final NRL outing.

It will also mark Trent Barrett's final game in the Penrith fold before taking charge of Canterbury's rebuild.

Few have been as constant in Koroisau's career as the Panthers attack coach who first took him to Manly at the end of 2015, helping his rise as one of the game's premier hookers, before they reunited out west once again for Penrith's title charge.

Smith of course has been ever-present across the way since his own 2002 debut when Koroisau was still just nine years old.

The 37-year-old is yet to make any announcement on his future and won't this leading into the decider either, continuing another week of headlines that will focus on Smith rather than the Storm.

There was however a sense of closure to scenes of Smith being chaired from Suncorp Stadium by teammates after Friday's preliminary final, an act Craig Bellamy said was his idea for simply "a nice photo" afterwards.

If Sunday is to be Smith's last, Koroisau plans on spoiling the party.

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"If we win, I’ll take his jersey," he quipped.

"I’m a big fan of Cameron. Coming in to play against the greatest No.9 to play the game, it’s obviously a great challenge.

"He’s obviously been an idol of mine growing up. I love playing footy against the greats.

"I don’t know about jersey swaps but it would be good to get it."

Koroisau can't remember watching footy without Smith being centre stage, though that is qualified by his reluctance to tune into any form of the game he's not playing in.

The value of video though has eventually got through to the Fijian rake, thanks to Barrett.

"He's been massive for me the whole way through," Koroisau said.

"Baz is attack specific here but even at Manly his game plan just really works for me and the way I play.

"He actually got me to start watching video. I don't like it, it clouds me a little bit.

"But he taught me and showed me the importance of it. He'd study players and people he'd play against and then it showed in how he attacked teams.

Then there were two

"At the start of my career when video started, I'd nearly fall asleep.

"Tough to get away with that with Michael Maguire [his first coach at South Sydney], but I'd sit in the corner and be that kid up the back of the classroom, trying to do anything but pay attention.

"I still don't watch footy now. But I appreciate the effort the coaches go to now so I figure I can at least watch it and repay that. Baz brought me around on that a bit, slowly but surely."

That said, Koroisau hasn't exactly picked apart Smith's inimitable approach to add to his own.

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It's as much a nod to the stark differences in their games as a compliment and a half to the Storm skipper.

"It’s pretty hard to take something from Cameron Smith," Koroisau said.

"He’s not a running hooker, he’s more like an IQ player. It’s hard to take things from his game because he’s so natural.

"I don’t know if he studies the game crazy or whatnot. It’s hard to emulate what he does because he’s so special.

"I try to do the best that I can and pick what I can from everyone. It’s pretty special watching Cameron Smith."

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.