TORONTO — Cory Paterson's debut for the Toronto Wolfpack had a little bit of everything.
The 30-year-old Australian forward intercepted a chip kick and raced 70-plus metres for a try in the Wolfpack's season-opening 34-12 win at Leigh Centurions on Feb. 4. After the game he discovered the spectacular score came despite an injured hand and wrist.
"It was a bit sore but I didn't think it was too bad," said Paterson, who doesn't remember exactly what caused the injury prior to the try.
"I kept playing with it," he added. "After the game my finger was real swollen and I couldn't move my wrist."
A scan confirmed he had torn the tendon in a finger and ligaments in his wrist. He underwent surgery three days later.
The pins inserted into his wrist will be removed in two weeks and he hopes to return in early June when the second-year rugby league team begins the home half of its season.
In the meantime, the Wolfpack have Paterson hard at work. On Sunday, during his first visit to Toronto, the six-foot-five 220-pounder mingled with some 140 fans at a local pub watching the Wolfpack's 52-12 win at the Swinton Lions.
"I'm on the clock, mate," he said with a smile.
"Injuries are opportunities," he continued. "I can't play which sucks. That's what I love doing and what I'm paid to do. But if I can give back to the club and supporters and things like that, that's what I'm happy to do."
His first impression of the Wolfpack fans was nothing but positive.
"Awesome," he said of the viewing party. "Really supportive. It was a good day."
The charismatic Aussie, who makes his English home outside of Manchester, is equally impressed by Toronto itself.
"I've loved it. You can see my smile," he said. "Everyone I spoke to before I came here, I'd ask them 'What's it like?' and they just said 'It's a beautiful city. Great people.' ... Everyone just said great things and they weren't lying. It's been great. Everyone's so polite and welcoming."
Paterson made his National Rugby League debut in Australia for his home-town Newcastle Knights in 2007 and went on to play for North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers as well as stints in England for Hull Kingston Rovers, Salford Red Devils and Leigh.
Signing with Toronto reunites Paterson with former Leigh coach Paul Rowley.
Paterson says depth is the main difference between Australia's NRL and England's top-flight Super League.
"For every one bloke that retires, there's two, three, four more kids coming off the conveyor belt that can do what he did," he said of the NRL.
He took a hiatus from rugby league to try his hand at boxing and, earlier in his career, showcased his kicking skills for the NFL's Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. He has also acted on the side.
"You could look at one thing and say I could have stayed in Australia and played 10 years there. Happy days," said Paterson, who is married with two kids. "But everything's happened for me in my career for a reason.
"I think moving from Australia to England opened my eyes and my family's eyes about the big wide world out there. And now this is just another stepping stone to open our eyes again at seeing more parts of the world and more experiences for us and our kids."
"We're a bit nomadic as a whole family unit ... It's exciting. Change is good," added wife Sarah, a nurse.
Paterson also sees the move to Toronto as a chance to help sell rugby league in North America.
"A lot of their sports are contact-based," he said. "And I think once the North Americans can get their head around the combativeness of it and the physicality, I have a feeling that they'll fall in love with it."
Toronto, currently fourth in the second-tier Betfred Championship with a 3-1-1 record, visits the 0-4-0 Sheffield Eagles on Sunday.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press