SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys and National Rugby League Acting Chief Executive Andrew Abdo arrive a NRL press conference at Rugby League Central on September 03, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

With season 2021 now been and gone, the idea of introducing a draft system into the NRL has been floated once again.

NRL chief Andrew Abdo has hinted at changes to the competition's balancing systems after the recent season exposed the league's stark disparity between the top and bottom sides.

The AFL is the model that pundits have used when applying the concept to league, with the system there keeping the competitive nature intact for the most part.

Ladder finishing position defines which team receives what pick at the end-of-year national draft with the bottom-placed side usually receiving pick number one.

In terms of the NRL, youngsters coming into the competition are able to be poached by top clubs, leaving those toiling down at the foot at the table powerless to do anything about it.

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Even with academies, youth prospects are still lured away to greener pastures with the notion of playing for a premier side outweighing a bigger pay packet from a lower club.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Abdo explained that the league were investigating ways of evening out the competition.

“We want to have a competition where teams begin each season with genuine hope for competitiveness,” Abdo said.

“Every competition in the world in any sport has clubs doing well and clubs going through tougher times. It ebbs and flows.

“But as a governing body we need to create and always think about ways to establish balance over the long term.

“There is no denying there is a gulf but there are a range of factors. And we’ll monitor it carefully over the next couple of seasons.”

There was talk at the beginning of season by the NRL chief over the introduction of a draft system but the fresh comments made have once again re-introduced the notion.

Despite teams like the Broncos going through a rough patch, the assurance of playing for a big side such as Brisbane means that many youngsters still will likely choose to ply their trade there over a side such as Wests Tigers.

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The Tigers haven't made the top eight since 2011 and still are a ways off after finishing 13th in 2021 with just eight wins.

Abdo further hinted that the league would look into the idea with his additional comments.

“The whole idea is to develop and identify talent and spread it across all clubs in the competition," he continued.

“It’s difficult to see it happening in the short term but we’ll look at everything.”

The argument against a draft system is the fact that sometimes playing personnel isn't the problem, with the AFL providing instances of such.

The Gold Coast Suns are the prime example, with the side introduced in 2011 still having not made finals in the decade since despite boasting some of the league's top talent.

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Instead, the club's backroom staff have been critiqued with coach Stuart Dew coming under pressure for his lack of success in the four seasons since his appointment.

Still, the Suns are one team out of 18, with sides such as Melbourne in particular benefitting from the draft system, as seen with their premiership win this year.

North Melbourne are set to gain hot prospect Jason Horne-Francis with pick number one this year after a shambolic past few seasons and are tipped to rebound back into the top eight over the next few years.

With this, the NRL has ample evidence to put in motion a draft system to even out the playing field.


  1. cough BS cough.

    NRL is happy with Storm have a first grade team on the bench and would gladly accept a Storm vs Rooster GF until the end of time. Just look at the turn over in AFL GF winners, teams winning after 50+ years. The draft is far from perfect but it’s a hell of a lot better than what the joke NRL does.

  2. I think a draft is desirable – for the same reasons as Mr Majestyk – but not inevitable. If the Players Association are against it then the NRL management will be pushing a boulder up a hill to get a draft introduced.

    A couple of other things would also improve the balance between clubs. The first is introducing a proper transfer system, to stop a player simply deserting his club when another club makes a better offer. So if, like Newcastle, you have designed a roster around a couple of key players, you will not be shafted for the next season because a cashed-up Super League or NRL club wafts a bunch of money under his nose.

    The second thing would be to improve the rewards for clubs who have spent a lot of time and effort developing youngsters. We don’t like seeing every new Suaalii getting snapped up by a glamour club that has loads of sponsors that can offer him third-party deals that make him happy to accept a low-ball offer to enable the club to keep under the salary cap.

    I don’t know how you could tie in that second approach with a draft, but if a draft is to be introduced, it certainly needs to be factored in.

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