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Fit Api Koroisau eyes iconic Smith clash

Apisai Koroisau of the Panthers reacts with team mates after a Rabbitohs error during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Api Koroisau would find it hard to remember the NRL without Cameron Smith but the Penrith hooker is relishing the possibility of being the last man to mark up on him.

Koroisau has declared he will be fit to play in Sunday's NRL grand final against Melbourne after shrugging off a burner from Penrith's win over South Sydney.

But while the Panthers No.9 has arguably been the buy of the year, and the best dummy-half in 2020, all the attention will be on 37-year-old Smith this week, with uncertainty about his future taking the headlines.

And rightly so.

Koroisau was just nine when Smith made his debut for the Storm in 2002. His Penrith teammate Stephen Crichton was 19 months old and still in nappies.

Smith has played in more than double the amount of grand finals than the Panthers' entire squad, with his eighth decider next weekend equalling the sixth most appearances in history.

"That would be pretty special (to be his last opponent)," Koroisau said. "He's done so much in the game, it would be hard for anyone to catch him and the legacy he's left behind.

"Coming in to play against the greatest No.9 to play the game, it's obviously a great challenge. "He's been an idol of mine growing up. I love playing footy against the greats."

Smith's 429 NRL games makes him an idol for virtually every other hooker in the competition.

He is four years more senior than the next oldest. But Koroisau admits Smith's game-smarts make him hard to imitate.

"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," Koroisau said.

"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."

Koroisau does not have an opinion on whether Smith will play on.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he goes for another five years," he said.

"I'm 27 and the body feels like I'm 40."

But if the Melbourne legend does retire Koroisau playfully suggested he would consider trying to claim his own piece of history when asked about a potential jersey swap.

"If we win, yeah. If we win, I'll take his jersey," Koroisau laughed.

"I'm a big fan of Cameron. I don't know about jersey swaps but it would be good to get it."

His opposite number aside, Koroisau has his own history to think about this week.

He won a grand final with South Sydney in 2014 but has admitted he did not feel like he was part of that triumph after coming in for a suspended Issac Luke in the decider.

But this year he has been an integral member of Penrith's team, again their best in the preliminary final win over Souths with seven darts out of dummy-half.

"It will be a bit more special for me. I still love 2014 but definitely I hope I can be part of one here at Penrith," he said