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The lawyer who helped the Kibosh Rugby League’s first attempt to introduce a draft 30 years ago has said any similar attempt by the NRL to equalize playing skills will be doomed to failure.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said last week that the game would explore avenues to rebalance an increased number of rash scores in the 2021 season, with the project being one possible avenue.

New Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett has urged the game’s powerbrokers to consider introducing a draft.

But Bernie Gross QC, who acted on behalf of 222 plaintiffs in 1991 to prevent the deployment of a New South Wales Rugby League project, said three decades later the NRL would face the same problems.

“The internal ARL project has been declared an illegal restriction on trade for the same reasons that would now doom any future attempt to introduce a project to failure,” Gross told the AAP.

“These reasons include that in a free society, you cannot treat employees like serfs by imposing an employment contract regime that requires them to be employed by an employer they have not chosen.

“In a draft, a player wishing to work in the industry has only one chance to find an employer, which is determined by chance, rather than having the freedom to choose from fifteen. clubs.

“Any plan – internal or external – would have to be approved by the players ‘union and clubs, which is unlikely as all players’ agents and most players would oppose it.

“From a legal standpoint too, the Fair Work Act of 2009 would be a fatal obstacle, making it illegal to threaten, organize or take action to compel anyone not to employ a particular player.”

Leaving legal arguments aside, Gross also expressed concerns about the effect on elite-level pathways.

A draft has the potential to deter clubs from investing in junior stocks in their local areas as well as expanding their population base.

Penrith has been the best example in recent years, with a core of their premier winning team coming from their region as well as the regional NSW.

Under a draft system, a club like the Panthers could, in theory, sit down and commit very little to the base investment, knowing that each year the league would provide them with new playing skills. .

“Often the guys from the bush prefer to live in western Sydney, but Penrith has made a really concerted effort to build centers of excellence,” Gross added.

“These are in Penrith or in the regions. They focused on developing and identifying their star juniors, so when they got to the grand final they were exceptional.

“Crucially, though, they kept the guys they had developed. A draft wouldn’t allow that to happen as much.”

Associated Australian Press

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