With the scrapping of the NYC, a draft in conjunction with a free agency period should be the way forward for a post Dave Smith administration.
Nobody runs a draft like the NFL but we don’t have the luxury of such a deep player pool and a university feeder system to identify elite talent. We need every team to sing from the same hymn sheet. It could be successfully argued that is not the case with the 16 NRL clubs.
The idea of an off-season draft would be enticing for the fans and to combine it with a free agency period would make it all the more exciting. In the absence of any international fixtures, a draft would be the showcase event of the off-season
The AFL have just finished their draft so there is another avenue the NRL could look at emulating as the current system of free agency is broken.
The NRL more resembles the EPL in terms of talent equalisation. Rich clubs horde elite talent and smaller, regional clubs act as a feeder team/nursery to the big clubs like the Roosters, Broncos and Bulldogs. This gives us the same teams filling the top eight every year with the odd outsider making up the numbers and usually sneaking into eighth.
Third party deals are also the way for clubs to circumvent the cap and it gives clubs like the Roosters and Broncos a competitive advantage over clubs like the Knights and Raiders.
Nick Politis would have so many business contacts to supply third party deals to keep the cap number much lower for an elite player than a club like the Raiders can. It’s unfair and it has to change.
Hypothetically, a player like Blake Ferguson can be on the books at the Roosters for $400,00 but earn $800,000 through third party deals. The Raiders would be on the hook for the full amount when it comes to the salary cap as they don’t have the luxury of a billionaire benefactor and big city contracts to top up third party deals. The same would apply for Newcastle, who are not NRL owned franchises.
The main issue with the draft is the mechanics of how it would be implemented and unlike the Terry Hill case, a restraint of trade clause must be include in all contracts so players can’t challenge the draft in court because the game needs the draft. Sometimes I think the game succeeds in spite of itself rather than because of itself. Just think what the game could achieve if it had all the tools necessary to do the job?
The team that ran last would have first pick in the draft from a talent pool of up and coming players, with any player over the age of 22 ineligible for the rookie draft. The picks could be traded between clubs based on need and the salary cap situation. A rookie wage scale would also be necessary to ensure elite talent would be fairly compensated but the clubs would not have to break the bank to gain elite talent.
A minimum of four years for a draft orientated contract with the option for a fifth in the clubs favour. Obviously there would be a lot more fine print to keep the clubs onside but this is a way to bring parity to the game and stop the game following the EPL and having the same four sides competing for the title every year. Sure, it’s socialist in nature but let’s make sure it’s nor Orwellian if implemented.
Give Sydney clubs with no junior base a regional area to invest in at the grass roots level to make sure they can cultivate talent and do their fair share for the game in the bush. Let’s not have junior nurseries that are pillaged when elite talent is nurtured and invested in only for clubs to sit back and wait and reap the benefits of the hard work done by the regional clubs that are identifying talent.
Make it fan friendly. A crucial factor in the success of the draft. Hold the draft in an iconic location like the SCG or take it on the road every fourth year or so. Get the fans feedback and listen to what they want. Get the clubs input but don’t let self interest override what’s in the games best interests over the long term.
There will probably never be a perfect system but at least give it a go for five to seven years and see where the game is because of itself, not in spite of itself.