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Why the NRL draft is already dead in the water

Curtis Woodward Roar Guru

38 Have your say

    Billy Slater is one of the Storm's best ever, but will injuries end his career? (Image: AAP)

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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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    The Crowd Says (38)

    • March 14th 2012 @ 2:53am
      AndyMack said | March 14th 2012 @ 2:53am | ! Report


      I would love to see a draft system in the NRL. I don’t mind the fact that youngsters might have to move to Auckland or Melbourne or Townsville if they get drafted. They are professional sportsmen, that would be part of the deal (I had to move 400km down the road to find work, so I’m less inclined to have sympathy on this one).

      The reason the draft wont work in the NRL is because there is an alternative, ie: head to the Super League in the UK. If a kid in Victoria wants to play AFL footy, he has to sign up to the system of the draft, and the salary system they have for first two years of being drafted (a limit on how much they can earn in reality), he can’t say “stuff this i’m going to go play AFL in the UK”.

      Your point on developing youngsters is a good one, I agree there. Might be a way this can be accommodated though, in the similar way to the Lions and Swans have a leg up in recruiting talented youngsters from their catchment areas. Just a thought, don’t know quite how it would work.

    • March 14th 2012 @ 3:24am
      Timmuh said | March 14th 2012 @ 3:24am | ! Report

      Speaking as an Australian Football person, I wish the AFL would get rid of the draft. Let the salary cap do its work (and, yes, that means effectively policing it – something the Storm know does not happen until well after the fact).
      The draft briungs about the perception, perhaps the reality, of tanking for picks and enforces a cycle. Allowing the salary cap to be the great equaliser would allow well run clubs to stay at the top for years, and those at the bottom shoiuld have more rom in the cap to entice the better juniors with to set themselves for the future.
      If the NRL could police the cap properly, something both the AFL and NRL have failed dismally at, your system would be far better than the one we have.

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2012 @ 4:57am
      peeeko said | March 14th 2012 @ 4:57am | ! Report

      true, its not going to happen. comparisons with US sports drafts are not that useful in that the players are massively paid and the development of players is done by huge college systems

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2012 @ 5:24am
      MG Burbank said | March 14th 2012 @ 5:24am | ! Report

      This issue is complex and without a detailed knowledge of the potential inner workings of a draft, it’s hard to form an opinion. First off though Curtis, you said the draft ‘doesn’t work. It just doesn’t’.

      You simply don’t have the evidence to support that. The draft lasted about 6 minutes in League so we don’t know how it might have worked.

      The argument for keeping juniors in their local area is a strong one. I also completely agree with your stance on cap exemptions for locally developed players, whether they are from that part of the world or were developed in the club’s system, such as Storm players like Inglis, Slater, Cronk and Smith. That foursome should never have had to be broken up. Champions team that are made, not bought, are great for the game and encourage other clubs to develop their own legends.

      Having said all that, the draft could go a long way to solving the inequity that exists in accessibility to quality juniors, something Brisbane has taken advantage of for years. I think the Warriors are starting to gain through that inequity as well. A draft would be tremendous for future expansion to places like Perth and Adelaide in addition to helping struggling clubs every year.

      Yes, the ‘tanking’ element could be a problem. All in all, I agree that a focus on cap exemptions for developed juniors and a strict policing of the cap is where things should remain for the moment.

    • March 14th 2012 @ 6:21am
      kiwidave said | March 14th 2012 @ 6:21am | ! Report

      A draft is a great solution to a competition with a highly uneven distribution of talent. But by and large the NRL is actually pretty even. If the storm are suffering from a lack of access to quality juniors I’d hate to see them if they did have good juniors.

      The draft is being proposed as a solution to players moving mid season, when in actual fact I can’t see how it would solve this problem on it’s own. If you want to stop players shifting mid season then simply rule that moves can only take place in the off season

      If the problem is players playing for one team having already signed with another (e.g. Jame Maloney) then institute a transfer system where clubs can control when a player is moved or institute a rule that players cannot be under contract with more than one team at the same time, neither of which would require a draft.

      Mid-season moves are still fairly common in sports that do have drafts and transfer systems like the NHL and NBA.

    • March 14th 2012 @ 7:50am
      Rodney McDonell said | March 14th 2012 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      The only reason the call for a draft has come up this time round is due to the early announcement of players signing with other clubs. In the most recent case, an entire season before the player in question starts work with his new club. There are ways to fix this problem and ways to not. Implementing a draft is an incredibly heavy handed way of trying to fix it and as noted in previous posts its not a full proof solution.

      Even the AFL is looking at bringing in a more equal free agency transfer system like the NRL that would sit on top of the draft.

      I don’t see what the big deal is when players signing contracts when they have another year to run on their current.

      If the NRL was really concerned about, they’d outlaw the practice if it wasn’t a constraint on trade.

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