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Page last updated at 06:56 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 07:56 UK

Peacock dares to dream

By Paul Fletcher

Jamie Peacock (left) clashes with Australia's Willie Mason
Peacock (left) is a ferocious competitor who relishes taking on the best

Sporting greatness comes in many forms.

There are those who have been touched by the hand of genius, people such as George Best, Brian Lara and Andrew Johns, who, often aloof, taciturn and temperamental, can look as though they are wrestling to come to terms with the gifts bestowed on them.

Then there are those who have had to graft and toil to earn their place in the sun, but who appear to have a much greater grasp of their achievements because every inch of their success has been earned, often through incredible dedication, courage and desire.

Leeds Rhinos forward Jamie Peacock falls firmly - and proudly - into the latter category.

Peacock may be one of the best players in the world right now, but he had to battle to establish himself at his first club, Bradford, after the coaching staff thought he wasn't big enough to play rugby league at the top level.

You can do all the training you want but how you apply yourself mentally is a massive part

Jamie Peacock

Sent to Wollongong University in Australia to gain experience, effectively forgotten by Bradford coach Matthew Elliott, he was loaned to Featherstone before he finally made his debut for the Bulls at the age of 21.

Even then it wasn't all plain sailing.

Peacock was devastated when he was left out of the Grand Final squad in 1999. When he was selected, he tasted defeat in Super League's biggest match in both 2002 and 2004.

Those setbacks only made the Leeds-born forward more determined than ever to succeed, fuelling his motivation.

Now, this all-action hero will have the chance to seal his place in history if, as expected, he leads England at the World Cup in Australia later this year.

England have not won the World Cup since 1972, but if his capable young team, coached by Aussie-turned-Pom Tony Smith, defy the odds and lift the trophy, then the 30-year-old will become a legend of the game in this country.


Not that the modest Peacock, who hails from Stanningley on the outskirts of Leeds, will be drawn on his legacy.

"There is a sense of pride every time I pull on the shirt - of those that have worn the shirt and what they have done," Peacock told BBC Sport.

"Winning it would be quite a few people's legacies to the international game as some of the guys have been there for a long time."

Peacock's autobiography, No White Flag, has just been published and leaves the reader with a profound understanding that a sense of history helps him prepare for big matches.

It contains its share of amusing anecdotes and recounts the triumphs and failures of Peacock's trophy-laden career.

Jamie Peacock (centre) in action for Leeds
Peacock won the Super League with Leeds in 2007

But it goes deeper than that - it gives a real insight into how Peacock's unswerving desire has been crucial to his success.

Peacock is an intimidating and physical player renowned for his fearsome work-rate

But it is his sheer will to win, his immense mental strength which really sets him apart.

Peacock talks a lot about emotions in his book and his state of mind is clearly central to how well he performs.

He will seek inspiration from anywhere - the exploits of cyclist Lance Armstrong, for example - if he thinks it will help his preparation.

"I personally think a lot of my game is upstairs," said Peacock. "You can do all the training you want but how you apply yourself mentally is a massive part.

"Those who apply themselves mentally and use that tool the best are probably the elite athletes, the best at what they do."

Being the best he can be is hugely important to Peacock, but so is being part of a team.

As a youngster, he learnt much off Bradford stalwarts Brian McDermott and Jimmy Lowes, who helped shape and hone his game.

"If it wasn't for people like Brian, I'm sure there would not be a book because I would not have had the career that I have had," reckoned Peacock.

Now he tries to give his younger team-mates at Leeds, the likes of Nick Scruton and Luke Burgess, the benefit of his wisdom.

They could do worse than read his autobiography.

As I read it I found I started to question how well I do my own job, his desire to improve and succeed clearly infectious.

Let's hope the rest of the England squad are in such a positive frame of mind when they attempt to wrest the World Cup from Australia.

"I felt when I came into the Great Britain set-up that there was a myth about the Aussies, that they were invincible," said Peacock.

I think about the World Cup every day. Have I thought about lifting it? For sure, yes. I'm human

Jamie Peacock

"After about four games (against them) I thought they were fantastic players but not invincible - and I try to emphasise that to the younger players."

England begin their World Cup campaign against Papua New Guinea on 25 October before taking on New Zealand and Australia.

Between now and then, Peacock will try to fulfil a long-held ambition of playing at Wembley in a Challenge Cup final as well as helping Leeds defend their Super League title.

But the World Cup will never be far from his thoughts.

"I think about the World Cup every day," he said.

"Have I thought about lifting it? For sure, yes. I'm human. It is a hell of a long way off but what are we without dreams?"

If Peacock's dream comes true, it is fair to say he will truly join the British sporting greats.

Jamie Peacock's autobiography No White Flag, published by The History Press, is available now.

see also
Peacock tips Fielden to find form
25 Apr 08 |  Rugby League
England Cup spots 'up for grabs'
25 Mar 08 |  Rugby League
The adopted Pom's World Cup dream
25 Mar 08 |  Rugby League
World Cup scouting report
02 Apr 08 |  Rugby League

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