Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Case For An NRL Draft.

As an NBA and college basketball fan, one of my favourite parts of the year is the lead-up to the NBA Draft. And as a Sacramento Kings fan, I've been particularly invested in it the past few years.

Almost every professional sporting league which has any pretence of maintaining parity (i.e. not most European soccer leagues) has a draft of some kind. The NBA, NFL, AFL, major league baseball all have them. And while they all have varying success in attaining said parity, said success can be measured in degrees as opposed to gulfs.

Despite the NRL's attempts to maintain at least a facade of parity between teams through measures such as the salary cap, David Gallop has refused to consider implementing a player draft in the league.

His main argument is that the current system allows clubs to develop "local heroes" and loves to cherry-pick examples like Michael Jennings. While such stories of the local kid made good are always good for the old heart strings, unfortunately these days they tend to be the exception as opposed to the rule.

These days, the clubs with the most money to spend on recruitment tend to sign up the best juniors at a young age and have them enter their farm systems, which in turn get a boost from having all the best kids. The days of having sides mostly made up of local juniors are fast dying if not already dead.

However, even taking Gallop's view into account, there is still a way to get around this.

In the early days of the NBA, teams had what was known as territorial picks. That is, they could choose to void their draft pick to claim rights to a player who was from their team's area. Wilt Chamberlain was a famous beneficiary of this right, as the Philadelphia Warriors claimed him as he had grown up in Philly.

Therefore, in my model of an NRL draft each team could announce before the draft whether they choose to claim a territorial player. If they chose to do so, they would void their first round pick for both that year and the year after.

How would a draft work in our current system?

The way I envisage it, the current competition structures shall still stand.

Teams will still be free to recruit juniors from any area, however, the highest level they could have them play at would be the NSW/QLD Cup and NYC.

After a player loses his NYC eligibility, he enters the NRL draft unless he chooses not to. Players can enter before then, however, doing so automatically renounces their NYC eligibility no matter what their age. Let's say an 18 year old wants to enter the NRL and he gets drafted - the team can only send him to NSW Cup or park footy if they don't want him playing in the NRL right away.

Let's say that the draft was to have 6 rounds and each player would be paid on a sliding scale - e.g. the No.1 pick gets $100 000, the No.2 pick gets $98 000, the No.3 gets $96 000 and so on and so forth (I just made those numbers up - they mean nothing) until the league minimum salary is reached and every player drafted after then receives that salary. Contracts can last, let's say two years. Players who go undrafted can only be signed for this amount and length as well.

What do you think? Could this be an effective model?

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