Often around this time of year, as the excitement of the NBA draft envelops the American sporting landscape, we'll see a suggestion that New Zealand rugby would benefit from something similar.

Indeed, when it comes to dramatic off-season storylines, the promotion of the next tier of talent and the equal dispersion of those players, a draft does add certain qualities to a sport.

But consider an alternative case: in New Zealand, we already have it right. This is because the draft is unfair and should be abolished from every code.

The draft's existence removes the rights of the employee and hands them to the employer. The best young players are generally rewarded for their outstanding ability with a place on the worst teams, sent to live in an unfamiliar city over which they have no choosing.


To top it off, they are forced to sign a team-friendly rookie contract, not only being tied to an underwhelming franchise for the foreseeable future but being paid so far below market value it's insulting.

Imagine that scenario in New Zealand rugby. There has in recent years been no more promising young player than Jordie Barrett, whose performances in the Mitre 10 Cup made him a sought-after prospect.

Because he retained a basic level of worker rights, Barrett was able to choose for which Super Rugby franchise he would ply his trade, opting to play alongside big brother, Beauden, for the defending champion Hurricanes.

Under a drafting system, Barrett would have been banished to the Blues and stuck for multiple seasons in Auckland, all the while being paid poorly and knowing each match offered another chance to suffer an injury that could inhibit his earning potential or derail his career.

Some motivation still exists for kids to strive for a high spot in the draft: more prestige comes to a player whose name is called out early, more endorsements are offered and more desirable signing bonuses are dangled.

But those incentives merely mask the unjust nature of the process, something further obscured when the draft is so often trumpeted for making sports more fair.

By giving the top picks to teams at the bottom of the heap, the argument goes, talent-deficient franchises can rapidly improve and increase parity across the competition.

But that same result can be achieved with a salary cap. And while that artificial budget also restricts athletes from earning the maximum amount of money they deserve, when applied without a draft it provides a better balance of power between players and teams.

Think about the options available to a basketballer selected early in yesterday's NBA draft. If there were no draft and that player could instead decide his own destiny, it's not a straightforward case of the rich becoming richer.

Perhaps he would want to join the Golden State Warriors, but the chances of winning the title would be countered by the lack of minutes and money available on such a stacked side.

Maybe the prospect would rather focus on remuneration, ignoring the quality of his team and opting to collect an immediate financial reward for the hard work and sacrifices of his formative years.

Perhaps he could enjoy the best of both worlds at a mid-level team boasting a reasonable roster and financial flexibility. Or maybe he simply hates cold weather and always wanted a place near the beach.

The point is, an athlete's fate should be in their hands. They're the ones who produce the product we so relish, the ones who generate the exorbitant revenue a sport receives. The least we can do is let them decide where they want to live.