Soaring costs raise pressure for an NRL draft

18:27, Jun 11 2014
Peta Hiku
KIWI BOY: Manly's Peta Hiku was born in NZ but has made a name for himself in Sydney.

South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson and Newcastle recruitment manager Peter Mulholland believe an external draft would help reduce the massive development costs incurred by some clubs.

A special report by Fairfax last week revealed the cost of developing a player from 15 years of age to under-20s is about A$49,000 (NZ$53,810) and St George Illawarra have produced 70 players playing for other clubs at NRL, NYC or New South Wales Cup level, while 67 who have come through the North Queensland system and more than 50 from Wests Tigers are playing elsewhere in elite competitions.

The Dragons and Cowboys want the NRL to use a discretionary component of the new funding model for clubs to support development programs they operate at a cost of up to A$1 million a year each, while Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer has proposed a development fee system and Canberra officials are pushing for salary cap relief to help them to keep their young talent.

Some other clubs are estimated to spend about A$100,000 a season on development and sign players without any benefit to the club which produced them, whereas the AFL oversees development in 92 regions across Australia and players are then selected by clubs from an external draft.

Richardson, the longest-serving club chief executive, and Mulholland, who has 40 years' experience as a coach and recruitment manager at Penrith, Canterbury and the Knights, believe the NRL should be responsible for all development across the game with players to then enter a draft at the age of 18.

''A centrally-funded and centrally-operated development system across the board is the way to go and from there having an external draft is a no-brainer,'' Richardson said.


''That way you leave the kids in their areas to play football until they are 18 years of age and they enter a draft, unlike now where you might take 10 kids out of an area knowing that only one or two will be successful.

"The vast amounts of money that we are wasting on contracting players below the age of 18, and I am talking millions of dollars, could be better spent by pouring it into the development of the game and when a player comes through in a draft the money can go back to the area where he came from and which actually developed him.

''It is a standardised system for those players where they get decent contracts, decent set-ups and welfare arrangements across the board so it is the same whether they go to Canberra or go to Souths as far as the money goes.''

Mulholland supports a system such as that operated by the AFL, in which clubs get to nominate five players from their local areas that they want to keep on a ''rookie contract'' and the remainder are chosen from an external draft.

''I just fail to see what the league can do about development costs without tying it into club grants and then getting an external draft going,'' he said.

''Clubs could have five players they can pick who go on an apprenticeship or a rookie contract as they call it in the AFL. They receive a set wage, it may be A$40,000 per year, and that stops the recruiting clubs coming in and buying over the top of you with ridiculous offers.''

However, Dragons chief executive Peter Doust and the Cowboys' Peter Jourdain said they were yet to be convinced.

''I like the idea of people being able to choose where they want to play and having the opportunity to make a decision about that,'' Doust said.

Sydney Morning Herald