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Cory Paterson has returned to the NRL a more mature and composed footballer after 12 months in England. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos
Nothing quite captures the imagination of the rugby league public like a young fullback with fast feet who makes opposition teams look silly.

Nothing, that is, except an even younger halfback who still takes directions at home from mum while at the same time guides an NRL team around the paddock with a mix of smarts, speed and a dash of showmanship.

That the Wests Tigers have both currently in their squad is the source of much excitement among fans and grandiose statements from the media but that's not to say James Tedesco and Luke Brooks already have the run of the joint.

There are some old blokes at the Tigers who with their starts to 2014 appear to have tapped into the fountain of youth. Whether it's Robbie Farah carving sides apart through the middle of the ruck, Braith Anasta's cool head and measured kicking game or 32-year-old Pat Richards' booming 70-metre drop-outs, the veterans have still got some tricks of their own, on and off the field.

"The old blokes are the guns actually!" says Cory Paterson of the table tennis games that help to fill in time during trips away.

"There's a little bit of trash talk over table tennis on away games but not too much. We play a bit of cards and things like that and we're all competitive blokes, whether it's cards, table tennis, games of touch, we're all trying to win."

At 26 years of age Paterson is not yet ready to join the ranks of the 'old blokes' but in terms of first grade experience he has a seven-year head start on 19-year-old Brooks and 21-year-old Tedesco.

Having started his career at Newcastle in 2007, Paterson spent two years at North Queensland before linking with Hull KR in the English Super League last year and has seen plenty of talented youngsters come and go.

What impresses him most about the current crop of Tiger cubs – that also includes 20-year-old David Nofoaluma and 19-year-old Mitchell Moses, among others – is the respect they show for their more experienced teammates and a willingness to learn.

"The kids here are good, they've got a lot of respect and they just want to learn and get better, and that's a massive thing for them to have," said Paterson. "There are a few old heads here that everyone respects and listen to and the young guys definitely do respect them.

"In saying that, we don't want to take their instinctive play away from them; if they see something we want them to play and [against the Titans], Brooksy and 'Teddy' just played what they saw and it's exciting for the club to have those blokes just playing what they see and playing footy.

"If it doesn't come off then it doesn't come off but we're all playing for each other."

While the young Tigers stars are doing their growing up very much in the public eye, Paterson insists it was a year spent in England that has allowed him to mature and come back to the NRL a more complete player and person.

When he signed with Hull KR midway through 2012 Paterson intimated that he and wife Sarah and young son Jax may make a permanent home in the United Kingdom but 12 months later he was able to secure a release in order to return to Australia.

"To be honest, going to England was probably the best thing for me and my career," said the three-time Indigenous All Stars representative. "I was a bit stale here and it was good to go over there and start something different, experience a different culture and country but the NRL is where I want to be and I'm happy to be back and contributing to this team.

"[The hard part] was just the distance from family and things that I was comfortable with. But I think that was also a good thing on the other hand because my family and I had to learn to adjust and live out of our comfort zone and that made us closer as a family."

While the likes of Brooks and Tedesco may be the players young Tigers fans are now emulating in the backyard, they haven't quite managed to steal away the affections of Paterson's now three-year-old son Jax.

"He enjoys it and he's starting to realise what's going on now, that Dad plays footy and he'll sit there and watch," said Paterson, who insists daddy is Jax's favourite player. "That's the big thing for me. We had an ordinary game [in Round 1] but I come home and my family's there and my three-year-old doesn't judge me.

"That's one of the good things about having a young family, he doesn't care whether I won or lost, he's just going to ask to kick the footy tomorrow, so that's good fun."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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