Dylan Cleaver on sport
Sport analysis and comment from Dylan Cleaver

Midweek Fixture: Rugby needs a draft system

By Dylan Cleaver

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opens up the 2016 NFL football draft. photo / AP
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opens up the 2016 NFL football draft. photo / AP

It is time our national sport introduced a draft.

The NFL and NBA made-for TV draft extravaganzas are over-the-top and a little bit icky, but they've become such an established part of their sports' calendars that they are industries in themselves.

New Zealand Rugby should hold a televised Super Rugby draft. The pluses far outweigh the minuses.

For a start the contracting environment allows for it now, whereas it didn't a few short years ago. The draft would be a useful parity mechanism, ensuring the suddenly trendy Chiefs don't continue to siphon off the cream of the talent.

It would be transparent - rugby has such a shocking everything-is-a-secret culture. The first thing professional players are taught is how not to trust the media. It permeates everything they do from that point forward. This would promote engagement with the media and therefore the public.

(This is not self interest. I'm long past the point of worrying if anybody in rugby will talk to me.)

It would ensure a constant regeneration of talent in the five franchises, which would in turn guarantee that the European leagues and Japanese league remains clogged up with New Zealand's cast-offs. Win-win.

With the best of national 1st XV rugby televised and the Auckland competition having its own YouTube channel (see the luminaries pick their secondary school dream team of 2015 in this video), there'd be no shortage of footage to keep the entertainment wheels spinning.

It is an event they could sell to sponsors or, if NZR are completely lacking in the requisite imagination to make this work, it could be packaged as the AIG Super Draft.

It would also send an intimidating message to the rest of the rugby playing world: it is telling them in stark terms just what a production line of talent New Zealand has available to them.

But the biggest benefit of all could, no should, be the rules in place around the draft. To become draft eligible, students must have completed five years of secondary school to an agreed academic standard.

New Zealand will be churning out not just better footy players but, you guessed it, better people.

It's a big winner all around, surely.

***

It's been a while since I was hunched, Quasimodo-like over a keyboard due to a minor accident that owed everything to the difference between what my mind thinks I'm capable of on a mountainbike, and my body's inability to keep up with my mind.

The one benefit of the scrape was it gave me a bit of time to watch some sport and to think a few idle sports thoughts. Here's a potted collection of small thoughts, the first straying not too far from the bike.

The International Olympic Committee have missed a huge trick by not having downhill MTB in their programme. What a spectacular, crowd- and TV-pleasing sport. Cross-country MTB is fine but in terms of seat-of-the-padded-pants action, it ranks a long way behind downhill. For an organisation that is desperate to make the Olympic programme more relevant, it defies belief that golf, tennis and football - where the Olympic title is always going to be an afterthought for those sport's top practitioners - are in their and some of the more dynamic X-Games generation sports are still on the outside looking in.

I know there is a persuasive argument about the network of sponsors those global sports attract, but it is not as if the IOC is lining up at soup kitchens as it is.

I'm prepared to be swept along on the Leicester City magic carpet ride, even if deep down this fairytale has a few unsightly plot twists.

In 2014, a deal between the club and Trestellar immediately resulted in a eight-figure spike in their commercial and sponsorship revenue. Trestellar sold sponsorship back to King Power, Thailand's travel retail group chaired by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who also happens to be... Leicester's owner.

This is quite probably pushing at the envelope of legality but it served a purpose, reducing the club's losses and ensuring they avoided potentially crippling Fifa Financial Fair Play sanctions.

It all honesty, the finances look as dodgy as $3 notes and as precarious as Greek government bonds but for now, who cares? The good far outweighs the not-good.

After all, it's the misused and abused migrant labour of Abu Dhabi that props up Manchester City's assaults on the title; it's the mutual back-scratching between Putin and Roman Abramovich that has turned Chelsea into a perennial powerhouse; and don't get us started on the continual debt leveraging of Manchester United by the Glazer family.

Leicester's financial foibles seem quite quaint by comparison.

No, this is a good day for football. In an age where the major European leagues have become boringly stratified by financial muscle, Leicester have succeeded in altering the conversation. And that Claudio Ranieri seems a thoroughly decent chap, eschewing a party at striker Jamie Vardy's house in favour of having lunch back in Italy with his 96-year-old mother.

If that doesn't warm the cockles of your heart, you don't have cockles.

I'm all for the Warriors hard line on player discipline, but the problems at that club and in that sport go way beyond a few boys with broccoli for brains. When leaguies play up off the field now it barely raises an eyebrow.

League has always sold itself on being a blue-collar game, a sport for the common man.

Pity it is too often played by common idiots.

The IPL might well end up eating itself and on Sunday night I was so over the nonsense I flicked over and started watching four-day county cricket instead. Which did get me thinking: what must NZ Cricket think when they can't get their own domestic competitions on telly, yet we have county cricket from England and T20 from India jostling for the cricket addict's attention?

SPORTS SHAREMARKET

I'm buying... The Redwoods, Whakarewarewa Forest

Despite my inability to stay upright, it can't diminish my belief that this might well be New Zealand's premier sporting venue. A stunning array of MTB tracks and trails to tempt the beginner to the advanced. Long may it remain untarnished.

I'm selling... False hope

There's not a lot of point selling down on the Warriors because there's no value. Don't let the St George result fool you either. I watched that game t'other day and there's 80 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Can't fault the Warriors for effort but geez that was an awful match.

I'M READING ...

You may be feeling all Hillsborough'ed out. If so, imagine how the families of the victims and the survivors of the crush feel after 27 years. If you're to read one more story about the tragedy and the absurdly long search for justice, it has to be this one.


MY LAST $10

As Accadacca said, I'm back in black, it's been so long I'm glad to be back. Well, to be technically correct, the $10 I've spent this week pushes me back into red, but I'm that confident of continuing my roll I'm putting it out there.

Last month: Hawthorn to beat Adelaide in the AFL, and the Chiefs/ Hurricanes game to finish as either a draw or with either team winning by seven points or under. Hawthorn scraped through, the second time they've held my bet in the balance until the final seconds, and the Chiefs and Hurricanes were predictably hard to separate. That was a $29.40 gross there.

This week: Crusaders to beat the Reds by 13+ allied to the Brumbies beating the Bulls head to head should ensure another cute little double-your-money scenario - $20.90 to be exact.

Total spent: $120 Total collected: $115.95

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