Why the NRL draft is already dead in the water

Curtis Woodward Roar Guru

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    So the Melbourne Storm want a draft. If any club was going to re-ignite the debate it was going to be the Storm. It makes sense considering the Victorian club has a minuscule junior system and need to sign players from around the country to stay competitive.

    But the draft doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. It may work in the AFL but it is not something that works in the National Rugby League.

    Nevertheless, Storm captain Cameron Smith believes it’s time for a draft. “I think we need to bring a draft in, it’s fair for everyone,” Smith said.

    “In other sports it’s spoken about as a bit of a joke the way we sign players mid-season and they’ve got to play a whole competition season knowing they’re going to be leaving in the next year.”

    Well, it isn’t fair Cameron.

    NRL clubs should be rewarded for developing kids and bringing them through their system. A salary cap exemption should then be made to keep that player at the club. That’s the key word in all of this. Exemption.

    Melbourne would have never lost Greg Inglis if exemptions were made to keep him. A junior who becomes a superstar should never have to leave his club.

    Beau Scott signing with the Newcastle Knights is another story altogether. Scott didn’t like the offer from the Dragons so he looked elsewhere.

    Would it be fair for Queensland legend Darren Lockyer to have packed up his bags and move to Auckland as a teenager?

    I am sure Newcastle fans would have been in uproar if, in the early 1990s, a young prospect by the name of Andrew Johns had had to move to Sydney and play for Cronulla or Balmain.

    Let’s not penalise our heartlands or good junior development areas.

    Storm coach Craig Bellamy also stirred the pot. “I think we should have a draft, I’ve thought that for a long time” he said.

    “We’re about evening out the game and that’s one way of doing it. I know there’s some negatives to it as well with guys brought up in one area having to go somewhere else and play.”

    “But at the same time I think guys going to another club, when they have to play the whole year or half the year at the club they’re at before they leave, I don’t think that’s good for our game”.

    “It’s what we’ve been used to for so long and I think we’re a bit blasé.”

    Well, fine. Bring in a two-week transfer period. Or even free agency. But let players go where they want and play where they want.

    Terry Hill took the draft system to the High Court in 1991 because it was a restraint of trade. That was in ‘91, when the average player salary was a lot less than what it is now.

    Imagine the field day a kid like Jack De Belin and his management would have if he was told he had to move to Canberra for half the pay he could make somewhere else.

    It’s clear that a rugby league draft just wouldn’t work.

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