Jonny Wilkinson in Pole Position for the European Player of the Year Award

by Andrew Stratton

There are very few trophies that are considered more prestigious for rugby players who play for one of the teams from the old continent, than the European Player of the Year award. Only the best enter this Hall of Fame and even being nominated for the honor is a great accomplishment, reserved only for a select few.

Jonny Wilkinson
Jonny Wilkinson's nomination comes as no surprise, as he is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world and one of the all-time greatest. He is also the reigning champion and a strong contender to retain the trophy, especially with 2014 being a very special year. Jonny announced his intention of quitting rugby at the end of the season as he is 35 and plans on retiring while he is still on an uptrend.

Naturally, there are many who strongly believe that Wilkinson is good enough to play for a few more seasons and his teammates would be thrilled to have him around a bit longer. A final decision is yet to be made and Jonny didn't rule out any alternative, so only time will tell what he will do next. For the time being, this nomination comes as a confirmation of his skill and accomplishments and is very likely to result in another trophy.

This doesn't mean that he doesn't have strong counter candidates, as four more player have been nominated and all of them are top-class. His colleague Steffon Armitage is also on the list, with the other three players being all Saracens and they go as follows: Chris Ashton, Jacques Burger and Schalk Brits. Jonny has an edge over them, but this is probably the last time he competes for this award as rugby takes its toll over players.

Jonny Wilkinson

Up to a point, it resembles online poker and its constant grinding, as results don't come easy. Behind the success and triumphs, lies a lot of hard work and perseverance. Rugby players fight for every yard and it is the physicality of the game that wears them out, while poker players claw their way to success, even in online games, like in WSOP Texas Holdem, by taking one pot at a time. Online poker is more or less grinding these days and the most successful strategies are those that rely on value bets and stolen pots, rather than all-ins.

Jonny Wilkinson

The purpose is to slowly increase the size of the pot without tipping off opponents or getting pot committed, with a hand that you are not willing to go all the way. A raise on the flop and a follow-up bet on the turn can set the stage for an epic confrontation on the river; for the untrained eye, only the effect is apparent, while the preparations evade them completely. Aspiring rugby players could incorporate such an approach into their game, especially when they attempt to deceive and outplay opponents to score a try.

Will Jonny Wilkinson make it this time? We shall wait and watch.

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