Super Rugby draft not a fix-all solution

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A Super Rugby draft would not make all talent equal.

The spread of talent across five franchises has been a point of contention in recent weeks, with a draft mooted as a potential solution.

The AFL is the only Australian elite competition to stage a draft, in a similar vein to USA’s NFL  and NBA.

ARU high performance manager Ben Whitaker said strong recruitment should be the first focus for sides, along with providing the best programs to lure and develop talent.

Whitaker, who has managed the national talent pathway in recent years, said only providing a competitive environment would provide the equalisation that a draft does artificially.

“Great talent will always have a choice. A draft might force things a bit and it wouldn’t be the long-term solution to enhancing the recruitment and development of talent and ultimately the performance of our Super teams,” he said.

“With good coaching and strong performance environments, you create competition for that talent. Competition breeds greater performance.

“Even with a draft, the AFL clubs devote focus to their recruitment and development for high performance and that’s where I believe our focus should be.

“A draft model may offer up one-to-three potentially talented players a year to each Super club but that is only the beginning of realising talent.”

Reece Hodge has been a late bloomer. Photo: Getty ImagesWhitaker pointed to the Rebels as an example of a program that has recruited to its benefit in recent years, with a number of rookies and mature-aged recruits being further developed to add to their talent depth.

“The Rebels have done a good job over the past couple of years, despite being the last addition to our Super team model,” he said.

“They’ve got a consistently improving program and a young group in terms of Super Rugby caps.

They have looked locally for talent and have invested and backed this talent to come through such as 19 year old Sione Tuipolutu.”

“They have also recruited well from outside Victoria. You look at Reece Hodge - he’s been in the talent pathway since he was 16 and he’s had a few injuries during that time but he’s got his opportunity and he’s making the most of it.

“The Rebels worked hard to identify and recruit Reece from his outstanding performances for his Premier club Manly and through the NRC and Jordy Reid is another example of that.”

As well as those Rebels, a number of players have been blooded in 2016 who have bode their time in a Super Rugby franchise, including standout Waratahs backrower Jed Holloway and Reds hooker Andrew Ready, players that Whitaker said have rewarded the faith shown in them by coaches willing to back them and continue their improvement.

Former Waratahs and Brumbies backrower Stephen Hoiles said on a draft would be a difficult proposition.

“You put a draft in you start to tell players where they should be playing,” he said.

“The benefits that AFL has with a draft is there’s no other competition in the world.

“So as soon as you start to put restrictions on a young guy that’s from the East coast he goes, ‘I’m going to go and play in France,’ and that’s the risk we take with a draft.

“I would like to fix the rugby programs before we do so.

Hoiles said before going down the path of a draft, it would be better to give Wallabies staff more of a say over what franchises do on-field.

“We have in my opinion a strong Wallabies coaching framework and that was similar to the Waratahs one the last couple of seasons,” he said.

“I’d like to see in a nation that fights above its weight for players and talent similar to the Irish Rugby Union you have to have control at the top.

“The Wallabies need to have more of a say over who’s coaching the five states and how they’re playing, because at the moment they’ve got very different styles of footy that are being played out there coming from our five teams and not many are successful.”