Paea's UK stint a career necessity
Newcastle Knights recruit Mickey Paea believes his move to England so early in his career has put him in good stead for his first NRL season since 2011.
The first to admit he took his time in the NRL for granted earlier on in his career Paea's return to Australia is fuelled by the motivation gained by establishing himself in the Super League – at both Hull FC and Hull KR.
A journeyman of sorts after stints at the Roosters, Dragons and Bulldogs – playing just 56 games between 2005 and 2011 – Paea admits his departure to Hull was beneficial in the context of his rugby league career.
"You take things for granted sometimes. Looking back I think I was far too comfortable and content being involved in a [NRL] system and playing every now and then. It wasn't until it was taken off me that I wanted another taste," Paea told NRL.com.
"Having game time every week and being a foreigner player over there, there's an expectation to deliver on the field and I think that's helped me as a player and as a person.
"Watching [the NRL] regularly in the UK, in the back of my mind I knew I wanted another chance to put my best foot forward in Australia again one day, and that's why I'm here.
"I went overseas when I was 25 and I didn't plan to stay there for four years but it's the way it went. When the opportunity presented itself to come [to Newcastle] it was the chance I needed for me to be accountable for myself and take on a new challenge."
Entering a club who are out to shake memories of their wooden spoon season, Paea has taken a similar motivation to his new teammates.
The second oldest at the club behind lock Jeremy Smith, Paea – who turns 30 in March – is buoyed by the Knights' hoard of youngsters and is happy to hand down any advice, his experience a "natural" source of knowledge.
"Everyone is in the same boat because Newcastle didn't have the best season but that's beyond most of the boys now. It's a new group and it's a new challenge for us as a team and as individuals," Paea said.
"What we lack in experience, we'll gain in a lot of our enthusiastic kids. I as an individual want to put my best foot forward but collectively we want to put that into a result.
"There are a lot of young kids though so naturally there's going to be a call for you to speak up when you have to and help out when you can though."
With brother Lopini's return to the Roosters from Wakefield coming midway through last season, the Paeas are ultimately happy to be back in Australia together once again.
"Lopini was overseas for almost six years and I was gone for four so we're just happy we get to see each other more regularly," he said. "The family is back together so mum and dad are really happy."