I shift awkwardly, knowing that what is to come may be less than pleasant. I observe my opposition intently, my eyes frantically sending quick glances in all directions as I attempt to read their minds; to predict their next move and contemplate a way in which to counteract that in order to somehow remain dominant. The collar of my shirt seems to tighten around my neck as my nerves begin to take hold, and I refuse to make eye contact with my opponents, fearful that they will recognise my discomfort and take advantage of it. Instead, I do my best to appear confident at best, and stoic at the very worst, despite the fact that I can feel a single bead of sweat forming at the top of my forehead. I silently look across the green battleground at the other players and the crowd that collectively holds its breath in quiet anticipation. The man in charge starts the game, and I look at everything around me. There is no stadium, and there are no touch judges or goal posts.
Why? Because I�m playing poker.
I watch with anticipation as my cards are dealt, and I upturn the corners to have a look at what I have been dealt: a pair of aces, or �pocket bullets� as they are referred to within the game. My emotionless exterior falters for just a moment as I consider the situation. For the time being at least, nobody else can have better cards in their possession. But that can change once the rest of the cards are dealt.
In Texas Hold �Em, a variant of the traditional five card version of poker that is rapidly growing in popularity, the rules are clear. Every player knows the best possible hand: a ten, jack, queen, king and ace of the same suit, popularly known as a royal flush.
In rugby league, however, such clarity is not nearly as apparent. Different players consider different things their potential rugby league �royal flush�: international duty; representing either Queensland or New South Wales in the State of Origin series; or even finding and holding a regular position while playing for their club. While these are impressive achievements, perhaps they are nothing more than pocket bullets: an easy answer to a potentially complex question. I believe there is another royal flush that, if applied correctly, can bring about an intimidating performance, regardless of the level of competition, or the importance of a match.
A♥ Commitment � A player�s performance can begin and end right here. How dedicated are they to the cause? A committed player will always give their all, even in situations that seem hopeless. For at least eighty minutes a week, these players are willing to put their bodies on the line for every inch of territory on the field. "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon." � Napoleon Bonaparte
K♥ Trust � Psychologists all around the world say that strong relationships are built on trust. In rugby league, it means each defender can mark their opposite, knowing the player beside him will do the same. Too often, a lack of trust results in a player coming in to help defend against an opponent, while leaving another attacker unmarked. "Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great." � Ralph Waldo Emerson
Q♥ Communication � Naturally married to trust, Queen communication is essential for effective teamwork. Each player must know their role and that of everyone around them in order for the machine to remain well oiled at all times. "Communication � the human connection � is the key to personal and career success." � Paul Meyer
J♥ Talent � Raw ability is an impressive attribute. Every rugby league player has it to some degree, but there are a precious few whose talent far exceeds that of the rest. These players are rare, but instantly recognisable. "Natural ability without education has more often attained to glory and virtue than education without natural ability." � Cicero
10♥ Consistency � To play well once is good for the short term, but to perform strongly time and time again requires consistency, an all too elusive quality in top level sport these days. "Part of courage is simple consistency." � Peggy Noonan
A team which exhibited all of these qualities would be a formidable team indeed. They would be my royal flush.