There's nothing like the draft
Deep in the heart of Sydney's CBD the offices of NRL.com are usually busy with the humming of workers' comings and goings, keyboards furiously clicking away and the frequent ringing of phones and one-sided conversations.
Tonight, the office has a carnival atmosphere with a profound sense of nervous anticipation. It has morphed from a standard open plan office into a rugby league cauldron.
The waft of stacked pizzas permeates the air, it is clear something quite different is taking place tonight. You can feel it.
It is like game day, but this is much more than that. Tonight is NRL Fantasy Draft night. It doesn't get much bigger.
In a room full of people whose very jobs it is to report on the game and live and breathe rugby league, there is certainly no shortage of competition, ego and banter. Every decision you make tonight will be watched, analysed and broken down.
If you want to prove you know your stuff, this is the dance floor. It can be an intimidating place.
But if you are looking for a quiet area to think and make the all-important draft decisions, you are in the wrong place. There is nowhere to hide, not with last year's winner constantly reminding anyone who will listen how he is the reigning champion. There is no comeback.
It cuts deep.
The pressure is palpable. With 14 coaches in the draft including the Lone Scout - the Fantasy doyen himself - one bad decision can cost you everything. You won't get another pick for 20 turns, in which time the best players in the game will be snapped up like hot cakes, leaving you to dread your next decision.
As the timer counts down to zero, the office is turned upside down as coaches finalise their pre-draft lists and formulate ill-advised strategies. It can feel like an eternity between picks as you watch your favourite player drafted from right under your fingertips. But in something science may never be able to completely explain, when it is your turn, time somehow speeds up.
You race between the different options, like a kid playing hide and seek desperately searching for the perfect option with time running out. All your best laid plans are thrown out the window as you desperately click on a player to join your roster. Where did my favourite player go? When did he get picked? What about this guy, what were his stats last year? Is he even playing this year? Wasn't he injured? No one else has picked him, perhaps everyone is in on the joke and I've somehow missed it? It's too late, I'm out of time, just pick him already!
You make your decision, and almost immediately you regret it. Why oh why did you make that decision? It's too late, the chance is gone. All that is left is time to ponder your choices as other coaches make decisions that suddenly look like strokes of genius. Why did you panic?
Does anyone else have massive player envy?
As the draft slows to a conclusion, you reflect on your decisions and that of everyone else in the competition as you cheekily check their rosters.
There is a gamut of emotions, from quiet confidence to sheer terror, but all the coaches are putting on their best poker face.
It's OK, you tell yourself, it's only the start of the season, you'll make the other coaches a trade too good to be true and will fix your team; of course you are secretly scamming them out of their best players using your superior bargaining powers, just don't tell them.
There are no friends, just competition.
And you have to win.
All is fair in NRL Fantasy Draft.