Local boys becoming local heroes has long been one of the catch phrases used by Australian Rugby League Commission chief executive David Gallop.
(Yes, that is Gallop’s new title: ARLCCEO. Catchy isn’t it?)
Rugby league has boasted that it’s not a sport that packs a bunch of 18-year olds into a room and sends them off to far away cities.
Rugby League is a game where people like Luke Lewis and Anthony Minichiello can represent teams in their area. They live, work and play not far from where it all began in the backyard.
No-one can argue with the merit of the boast. It’s fine when these players are coming into first grade. The real problem arises when those young guns turn in to established stars.
St George Illawarra centre (even though he’s really a better second-rower) Beau Scott’s decision to sign with Newcastle from the 2013 season has re-ignited calls for the NRL to introduce a post-season draft similar to the AFL, NBA and NFL.
Last season, the announcement that James Maloney would be moving from the Warriors to the Roosters in 2013 was even more farcical.
Scott and Maloney now have to play full seasons with their respective clubs while fans question their motivation week in and week out.
It’s not a good look for the code, but how do you stop it?
The old June 30 deadline was a joke and doesn’t work either, but an end of season trade period is difficult on players and their families.
Players lives are uprooted, albeit most of the time by choice, and they’d be forced to find new schools and homes within weeks instead of months
The question of player loyalty is also a dubious one.
Certain players will openly tell you that while loyalty is meant to be a two way street it rarely is.
Clubs often show no mercy in selling player to free up cap space to purchase another.
Why should a player not be able to secure certainty when it’s on offer?
A full draft isn’t necessarily the answer.
It should still be possible for local heroes to become local stars much to the relief of the ARLCCEO (is that the longest abbreviated title ever?).
The problem doesn’t lie with the need to ensure young talent is evenly spread across the clubs. A replica of the AFL National Draft, while interesting, isn’t really required in the NRL.
It’s the timing of the announcements regarding established stars that is the real issue.
The NRL could introduce a system similar to the AFL pre-season draft, but with some variations.
The AFL pre-season draft is for uncontracted players and teams who do poorly are usually given the chance to sign players from that pool as well.
The NRL would need to loosely adopt this policy if it was to move in a draft direction at all.
If a player like Beau Scott decided he no longer wanted to be at the Dragons or was confident of getting a better deal elsewhere he could nominate for the end of season trade period.
Clubs that are interested could then begin negotiations.
Even that appears to be a revamped and drawn out June 30 deadline though.
Every suggestions appears imperfect. It seems either the fans or the players have to lose.
Choosing which one will be tricky.