Apisai Koroisau may have replaced Issac Luke as hooker at South Sydney but that is not where the comparisons end, according to Mark Hughes – the man who identified them both.
Hughes lured Luke and Koroisau from the Bulldogs in his time as South Sydney recruitment manager. While Luke had played reserve grade as a winger, Koroisau didn’t feature in any junior representative football at the Bulldogs, instead he was plucked from the park competition before switching to North Sydney and then to Souths as a teen.
The Fijian hooker has more than held his own, with Luke sidelined with a shoulder injury. Hughes said the pair left the Bulldogs in different situations.
“I was already a fan of Luke’s but I couldn’t get any stronger support for him in the year that I was leaving the Bulldogs,” Hughes said. “I wanted him to stay but when he couldn’t get a deal done I pounced on him.
“Api was a whole different story. He came via a mate who was well respected in the area. All the Canterbury officials thought he was too small.”
Following up his friend's tip-off Hughes went to watch Koroisau play halfback for Canterbury district side Berala Bears before offering him a chance with South Sydney’s feeder club North Sydney.
“He still had people saying that he doesn't talk enough and he is too small,” Hughes said. “He is a loyal kid and he has learnt a lot under Madge [Souths coach Michael Maguire]. He was a quiet little Fijian kid and no one really encouraged him.
“He makes yards and he is quick.”
Luke’s injury opened the door for Koroisau to make his NRL debut earlier this year. While Luke is expected to miss at least another month, the Kiwi international has kept busy helping Koroisau with his game.
Koroisau said Luke’s guidance had been invaluable.
“He has been incredibly helpful,” Koroisau said. “He is always giving me tips and going over video with me.
“[The main piece of advice he has given me is to] choose my time to run. There are a couple of opportunities early in the game but you don’t have to run straight away. He has told me to pick my times and it’ll work for me.
“I see us as similar players. We are creative but he is real stocky and very strong and low to the ground. I try and use my faster footwork.”
Koroisau has challenged himself to play at least 20 NRL games this season, meaning he plans to share the hooking duties even when Luke returns from shoulder surgery. After impressing in his handful of first grade appearances, Koroisau has attracted interest from rival clubs, including Canberra and North Queensland.
“The timing has been pretty good,” Koroisau said. “You never want to see anyone get injured but I saw it as an opportunity.
“My manager has told me a couple of clubs are interested.”
Koroisau will share the hooking role with Cameron McInnes when South Sydney travel to play Gold Coast on Saturday.
The story Apisai Koroisau following quickly in Issac Luke's footsteps first appeared on WA Today.