New Zealand open to NFL-style draft system in Super Rugby Pacific

Colin Newboult

2R6JW7H Hamilton, New Zealand. 10th June, 2023. Players shake hands at full time during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter-Final match between the Queensland Reds and the Chiefs at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand, Saturday, June 10, 2023. (AAP Image/Bruce Lim/via Photosport) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY Credit: Australian Associated Press/Alamy Live News

New Zealand players’ boss Rob Nichol is open to the idea of introducing a draft system into Super Rugby Pacific.

The proposal has been floated by Rugby Australia to spread the talent around the teams, as well creating more of a buzz with the supporters.

It wouldn’t go through without the approval of the respective players associations, but Nichol’s comments have at least removed one obstacle.

Joined at the hip

“We never say no to opportunities,” he told Stuff. “Something I think that can be really attractive is a prospect of a draft which is around New Zealand talent, Australian talent and Pacific talent.

“New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific now through Moana Pasifika, we’re joined at the hip to retain professional rugby in this part of the world.

“I don’t think people really understand that. We’re competing in the global marketplace, which is becoming incredibly aggressive with private equity interests becoming very influential in the northern hemisphere.

“We’ve got to be innovative. We’ve got to say, ‘How can we all work together to not just retain but actually attract talent back to this part of the world?’

“We have a generation of professional players who have gone offshore, from Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, have stayed offshore, settled, got married, had children, and those children are now coming into the prime of their rugby careers.

“And, they’re all eligible to play for countries down here.”

Eligibility issues

The main concern surrounding the idea comes in New Zealand Rugby’s criteria for being available for the All Blacks.

Currently, only players plying their trade in New Zealand can feature for the national side, which means an individual representing an Australian franchise in Super Rugby cannot feature for the All Blacks.

That means NZR will have to alter their own eligibility laws to make it work, but Nichol believes that it is a debate which should be had.

“I think it becomes really important,” Nichol said. “It might not be super important for the young 19, 20, 21 year-old who’s looking to get a one or two-year break, but it becomes incredibly important when they get into a Super Rugby environment, they’re starting to find form, and then they start thinking about the next step.

“It’s always a conversation that we’re having…the logical (answer) is that as long as you play in a competition that New Zealand (Rugby) is an owner in, what about that?

“In other words, if you play in Super Rugby Pacific, could you be eligible for the All Blacks? That to me, if there was to be a change, that’s probably the logical change to go to.”

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