#TackleTheToughStuff: Cory Paterson
19 May 2022
A playing career in Rugby League doesn’t last forever. In one moment, a player is in their prime and before they know it, it’s over. And it can be tough. Tough to process, tough to plan and tough to come to terms with.
As part of Super League's #TackleTheToughStuff campaign, Cory Patterson opens up on life after rugby and how he his using his own experiences to help a current crop of Super League players - as well as his young son - navigate their own sporting journeys.
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Cory pulls no punches about the difficulties he experienced after retirement. He speaks with honesty and openness about the struggles he faced during the transition from being a rugby player to a life away from the sport.
He conceded, “It’s pretty tough to be honest. You go from having 20 to 30 mates that you see every day to just being by yourself. Every day at training is hard but you always have a laugh, there’s always something going on, there’s always a bit of banter. So straight away the camaraderie is probably the biggest one you miss.
“Then there’s the whole thing of every weekend you’re striving towards an end goal and playing the best you can – your preparation and your structure goes out the window. You’d have that light at the end of the tunnel every week before a game where you’re training for something.
“You have to have a big mindset shift and I suppose I was doing it a long time and it’s all I ever really knew – I knew the day would come eventually but it sort of slapped me in the face.”
After working several different jobs when his playing career came to an end, Cory finally settled and opened his own café – Jacora. He set up his first coffee shop in Astley before moving to Urmston - away from rugby league circles.
That finally gave him a chance to take stock and settle into his life and new identity away from the sport.
“I identified as being a rugby player more than being the man I am – so the big thing now is I like being known as Cory the person, the partner, the father, the friend rather than just being identified as the rugby player.
“That gives me a lot more peace and fulfilment knowing rugby’s what I did, it wasn’t who I was.”
Andrew Henderson highlights the important work being done across the sport to support mental and physical wellbeing 💪
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Now, after three years away from rugby league, Cory has returned to the sport as Salford Red Devils Player Welfare and Team Manager.
He is using his own experiences to help the Salford players navigate their careers and plan for the inevitability of one day hanging up their boots.
“It’s good because they know I’ve been through it – I’ve played the game for a long time and now I’m on the other side of the fence. What I say may not necessarily appeal to them but it’s coming from a good place.
“We’ve all got different stories and journeys – I think a lot of stuff that helped me may or may not help others. But if they can take one or two little bits of advice or learn from what I went through rather than having to go through it [themselves].
“We’re all going to have to go through it – we’re all going to have to retire at some stage. We’re not paid to never work again when we retire so we need to try and find new passions, new careers and new life teammates. You have to go through it but if there’s a support network that can say ‘yeah, I’ve been through it, it’s pretty tough but it does get better’ - then I think that definitely helps.”
Cory isn’t just using his lived experiences to help the Salford players. His son, Jax, is part of the Liverpool football academy and is vying to play professional football as a full-time job.
“He’s getting to the age where he wants to make a real go of it. He’s asking me about things and I always give him my two cents worth - but from a loving place.
“A lot of it is driven by him which is what I’ve always said to him – it’s got to come from you. I won’t come down on you like a really hard parent because I’m your dad first.
“But at the same time, it just so happens that you want to be a professional athlete, I was a professional athlete and even though we are in different sports – you need the same mentality, work ethic, desire – all those things are still the same.”
And his most important piece of advice for his son? Enjoy it. Because it won’t last forever.
“I just say look mate, enjoy it. Be the player other players want to play with. Work hard and have no regrets.
“Enjoy the ride because it goes quick. Enjoy it, be grateful for it, because if it was easy, everyone would do it.”