I am an Australian, living in Manchester, playing for a Canadian team.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted this scenario. But considering my journey so far, I should have learned by now to expect the unexpected. I have played rugby all over Australia, the U.K., and now I can tick off the Canadian box.
I think my sense of moving and adventure comes from my childhood. My dad was in the army, so growing up it was a new city or town every few years, each time dad got posted to the next job. My father is Aboriginal, Indigenous Australian, which makes me curious and respectful of other Indigenous cultures around the world.
I’m extremely excited to learn more about Indigenous Canadians, their culture and lifestyle. I’d love to try to get out and explore the country and see some of the traditional ways. I’m very proud of my heritage and I carry that pride with me wherever I am in the world.
My childhood gave me the bug to see “what else” is out there. I think that’s why the universe has given my family and I this fantastic opportunity to again experience new people and places.
Here’s the thing about rugby players: I can honestly say if I go to any major city in Australia or the U.K., I will know someone there through playing rugby, which means I will have a place to stay.
The same goes for my old teammates, when they come to stay with me. Rugby players are tight knit, we look out for each other through good times and bad.
'Feeling like no other'
So how did I get to the Toronto Wolfpack? My team career began in Newcastle (the Australian one, three hours north of Sydney) playing for the Knights. I was in my late teens, playing with some of my best friends from school. It was a dream come true. To play in the NRL (The National Rugby League) alongside some of your best mates is a feeling like no other.
At the end of the 2008 season with the Knights I toured the U.S., and met with different coaches and teams, exploring possible punting opportunities in the NFL. That was a real eye opener. I was only a kid, and seeing how professional and impressive the NFL setups were, that was another dream come true for a young athlete. I never had any intentions to go over and play, I was just starting my NRL career, but I’m glad I experienced that.
After five seasons at Newcastle, I moved North up to Townsville in Queensland. Great Barrier Reef country. I played two seasons there and loved it. From there I had my first opportunity to play in the U.K. I joined the Hull Kingston Rovers in East Yorkshire. A good year, a good adventure, but the big city, bright lights of Sydney caught my attention again, so we decided to head back to Australia. I signed on for a year with Sydney’s Wests Tigers.
We had never lived in Sydney as a family. We loved it. I was happy and wanted to stay, but a big opportunity popped up to return to the U.K., to Manchester this time, to play for the Salford Reds. It was good to be back in the U.K. We had a different outlook our second time living there. We found a home.
I joined the Leigh Centurions, who in 2016, were in the Rugby Football League Championship. This was a team focused on getting promoted to the top tier in our sport, Super League. We did that, in my first season. Getting promoted was one of the greatest achievements of my playing career.
It’s not just rugby league that I’ve been fortunate to play and participate in. I have loved boxing ever since I was a kid. And I have been lucky enough to have a few professional bouts. There’s no feeling like the one you have just before you step into a ring.
It’s terrifying, but at the same time, knowing that you have done the work to get there gives you a confidence like nothing I can compare it to. Boxing has taught me a lot about myself. It has given me discipline, self-belief and a quiet confidence. In rugby, you have your teammates to help you. In boxing it’s just you in that ring. It shows how far you can go, and how tough you can be.
Which brings us to Toronto now, and the Wolfpack. Remember I said Rugby players stick together? Well, this stage of my career is all about linking up with former teammates and coaches.
I have real faith and trust in coach Paul Rowley and what he stands for. He is a great leader and also a great man. When he talks, the boys listen. There are plenty of laughs and good times, lots of jokers and pranksters in the team, but when it’s time to work? We work.
This is a very exciting time for my family and I. Just a few weeks ago my wife and I spent four days in Toronto. I watched a game with heaps of fans, met some sponsors, and did a bit of work for the Wolfpack club. I also got to do some sightseeing. I took in a Raptors game.
The one thing that stood out for me is how polite and friendly everyone is in Toronto. It is a major city after all, so I assumed Toronto would be hard and uncaring, like other big cities. But the city is beautiful and the people are so welcoming. And the food! I am 6-foot-five, 220 pounds, so as you’d imagine, I have quite the appetite. No complaints so far.
The Toronto fans that I met spoke with real passion and love for their team. I am excited for when we get into town there and start playing. We have a two-month block of games in the 416 and I have an inkling it will quickly start feeling like home. I have heard nothing but great things about the place during summer. It has to be warmer than the English summers!
I see a huge opportunity to grow the sport in North America and I think when new fans first watch rugby games, they are going to love it. It’s fast, physical, tough and played respectfully.
As for what’s next for me: I signed a two-year deal. I will be 33 when it’s up, and if I am still enjoying it, contributing to the team positively and the club is happy, then I would consider playing on.
In the meantime, I’m about to start a Masters in sports directorship. No matter where I will be in my post-playing career, that will help keep me involved in sports.
So where in the world will I be in two years? I can’t answer that. All I can say is wherever I am, I’ll be happy and grateful and embracing whatever life offers.
(Larges photos submitted by the Toronto Wolfpack)
10 quick answers from Cory Paterson
Q: The best book you've ever read?
A: Who says you can’t? You do by Daniel Chidiac.
Q: Must-listen Podcast?
A: Lewis Howes School of greatness.
Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Don’t let uncontrollable things affect you.
Q: If your life was a movie, what would it be called?
A: Breaking the cycle.
Q: What word or phrase do you overuse?
A: Brah (slang for brother) lol.
Q: What is a skill you wish you had?
A: Be able to sing.
Q: What's something no one would guess about you?
A: I can’t sing.
Q: If you could have the ultimate influential dinner party, who are the six people you'd invite?
A: Lebron James, The Rock, Kevin Hart, Jason Statham, Ali, Floyd Mayweather.
Q: What makes you cry, every time?
A: Cutting onions.
Q: What's the next goal you want to accomplish?
A: Get the Wolfpack promoted to Super League.