‘I’d do anything for this jersey’: Koroisau relief at retaining Blues spot

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Api Koroisau wasn’t sure he’d done enough to retain his place in the NSW side this year after the Wests Tigers’ seven-game losing streak to start the 2023 season.

But after weeks of speculation, the three-time premiership winner got the nod ahead of South Sydney’s Damien Cook as the only hooker for the Blues, with debutant Nicho Hynes to play as a utility off the bench.

Koroisau, who moved to the Tigers from Penrith at the end of last season, had no qualms about his ability to last the distance in the series opener. “I’d do anything for this jersey and for these boys here,” he said at the Blues’ Origin launch on Monday. “I don’t think I’ll have an issue getting through the 80 [minutes].”

With Cook seemingly in pole position to wear the Blues’ No.9, the Tigers’ 66-18 victory against the Cowboys on Saturday night saw Koroisau edge ahead in the two-horse race, with the call from Fittler confirming his inclusion just hours after Saturday’s game.

“I am sure it [Saturday’s win] played a part in me coming here for sure … I’m not exactly sure if that was the case, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was,” said Koroisau, who conceded it had been a turbulent start to 2023 for himself and his new team.

Koroisau said he tried not to let his team’s slow start to the season disrupt his campaign for an Origin jersey.

Wests Tigers’ captain Api Koroisau secured his spot in the NSW team after his side’s 66-18 against the Cowboys on Saturday.Credit: Getty Images

“It definitely crossed my mind [missing Origin selection], but it was one of those things I kept reminding myself: just keep playing good footy. If I could just play good footy, that takes care of Origin,” he said.

Koroisau’s combination with former Panthers teammates Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Jarome Luai and Brian To’o, with whom he won back-to-back premierships in 2021 and 2022, was a major contributing factor in his selection.

“Spending three years at Penrith, and having so many of those boys here, obviously is a huge addition not only to my game, but I think everyone around in the team,” Koroisau said.

“Just to come back into camp with these guys is awesome. So, hopefully, we can build on those combinations again in this sort of arena, and do some good things for NSW.”

Former Panther Api Koroisau with former teammates Liam Martin, Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton, Isaah Yeo, Brian To’o and Nathan Cleary.Credit: NRL Photos

Rather than play with two hookers, like the Blues did in game three last year, Fittler will instead use the versatile Hynes to cover a range of positions off the bench.

“I’ve done it before at the Storm. That’s how I got my first real crack in the NRL,” Hynes said.

“I will go throughout the week and train in different positions and do video and cover different positions with different sort of coaching staff, with the forwards and the backs. I feel like I’m smart enough to know how to defend and how to attack in little different areas.

“It’s something I’m not unfamiliar with, but it’s something I need to be really diligent on at the rest of this week, so I can build different combinations with different players.”

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