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Api days: Pressure release gets Koroisau back to best

It was only 12 months ago Api Koroisau was preparing to make a return for the Panthers in a second stint at the club after four seasons at the Sea Eagles.

Penrith had been crying out for an attacking hooker since James Segeyaro departed in 2016 and were instantly rewarded by bringing back their Fijian international.

It was like he never left.

Leading into the Panthers' revenge mission in 2021, Koroisau has never been in a better place on the field, which, after sevens seasons and one premiership in the NRL, is some call. 

"Since I've come back I've started to enjoy footy a bit more," Koroisau told NRL.com.

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"There were great players at Manly but here there's a fair bit of pressure taken off me.

"Not that I had too much over there but I probably got caught up too much worrying about playing good, instead of being happy to do what I do.

"It can weigh you down. Having Nathan [Cleary] and Romey [Jarome Luai] on either side doing their thing helps a lot but the middles in this team are incredible.

"Isaah [Yeo] had a breakout season last year and Fish [James Fisher-Harris] is amazing. They helped my game with quick play-the-ball and that's pretty vital to what I can then do."

NRL.com recently analysed former Panthers skipper James Tamou's ability to stay on his elbows and knees frequently, in a glimpse into the advantage it can create to a side like Penrith looking to generate speed around the ruck.

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With Tamou off to the Wests Tigers, powerful prop Moses Leota is expected to step into his shoes - another player who is hard to bring down.

"It's a great technique to not get flattened out on your belly," Koroisau said.

"When the forwards do that the ruck gets quick within the space of a tackle. If you're on the attack it's amazing to look up and run, and it's very hard to defend."

Penrith showed they were more than capable of the same roll-on in their 16-6 trial win over Parramatta last week.

Their round one opponents, North Queensland, have spoken all season of their desire to play a more up-tempo game in 2021.

They'll get a strong test early against a well-drilled Panthers outfit.

"We were pretty happy with how we started [last week], the first 20 minutes was exactly what you want to do," Koroisau said.

"It felt like we left off from last year so hopefully we can take that into the season."

With their grand final defeat still lingering in the background, Koroisau has his eyes set on a premiership this season.

After tasting success at South Sydney, being on the opposite end hasn't sat well with him over the summer.

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"There is no real way to describe it other than heartbreak and disappointment after getting so close," he said.

"It was pretty disappointing but the first thing we did was address the elephant in the room and if anything it helped everyone release any anxieties or pressures we had.

"Leading into the pre-season it's been really fun and it's more a feeling that last year's effort is now a standard we've set for ourselves."

What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?

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