It's time Trans-Tasman Super Rugby introduced a player draft

If Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby are indeed fully committed to a 12-team Super Rugby competition from 2022, and making it the absolute best tournament that it can be, then they should be watching the NBA and AFL over the coming week.

Neither season is currently running -- in fact the last time either a Spalding or Sherrin was shot or kicked in anger was almost a month ago -- yet both leagues are still driving their respective narratives ahead of a season restart later this year [NBA] or early next [AFL].

While preseason is even yet to commence, both sports remain in the headlines through three vital parts of their respective identities: a draft, and trade and free agency periods.

In the NBA we have Chris Paul making a move to Phoenix Suns and talk that James Harden could join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at Brooklyn Nets [WOW!], while over in the AFL Jeremy Cameron joined Geelong's already stacked list and Adam Treloar got a deal done with the Western Bulldogs after all kinds of chaos at Collingwood.

And both sports are now counting down the days until they select the best of the unsigned young talent available, with the Bulldogs holding the No. 1 pick in the AFL and the Minnesota Timberwolves seemingly set to use the NBA's opening selection on former Illawarra Hawk LaMelo Ball.

All the while, reporters, analysts and, most importantly, fans, pile over video, stats and background information to learn as much as they can about their team's next great hope or the key missing cog that will take them from championship pretenders to contenders.

It's a concept foreign to many sports, and rugby is certainly one of them.

But after a year like no other when the entire global calendar was thrown into chaos, competitions have been redrawn and new, innovative television deals have been done, Australia and New Zealand have an opportunity to really shake things up.

It would require more collaboration than ever before, and not denying Test eligibility for players based outside of their home country, but imagine the interest free player movement and an end-of-season draft could bring to a rumoured 12-team Super Rugby trans-Tasman in 2022.

In fact, wouldn't a draft in late 2021 be the perfect way to really ramp up publicity ahead of the competition's kick-off?

Rugby has already embraced the free movement of players all over the world, but they have typically been players who have left Super Rugby and headed for the United Kingdom and Europe, and more recently, Japan. The emergence of Major League Rugby in the United States could also pose a threat in the coming years.

Aside from James Haskell, Freddie Michalak, Jamie Roberts and the odd other, few have gone the other way.

Why not give players the chance to experience life in another city having spent the early years of their careers at home or give young New Zealand talents an opportunity to head over to Australia, as they already do in the NRL, in search of greater opportunities.

And before you say that New Zealand Super Rugby clubs might not be interested in Australian talent, it's worth noting that the Australia Under-18s team defeated their New Zealand counterparts last year. And, as the NBA and AFL have proven, there are always diamonds amongst the rough, and some greats of both games have been found well down the draft pecking order.

Rising Brumbies lock Nick Frost, for example, was signed out of the Australia Under-20s by the Crusaders, before finding his way back to Australia.

Meanwhile, as RA chairman Hamish McLennan noted earlier this week, a number of Argentina players could be looking for new homes after the Jaguares became collateral damage of COVID-19.

Tomas Cubelli and Julian Montoya, who both started in the Pumas' famous win over the All Blacks last Saturday, have already signed for Western Force and there may be others keen to remain in Super Rugby, rather than follow the well-worn path to Europe.

And then there are those South Africans who may not fancy a freezing winter in Belfast or Leicester just yet, and whom may very instead desire to test themselves against the southern hemisphere's best outside South Africa now that SARU will take its provincial teams north.

RA and NZR could even have an international player draft to coincide with a rookie draft, where those players who have flagged an interest in Super Rugby from 2022 would enter a pool from which the 12 teams would take their pick in the reverse order of their finish in next year's fledgling six-week crossover tournament, with the two new teams -- tipped to be Moana Pasifika and a Fijian outfit -- also slotting into the mix.

We keep hearing that the level of private equity interest in the game is on the rise and moving to new, innovating concepts that help drive supporter engagement and growth would no doubt sit well with those parties.

There would obviously be significant hurdles to overcome, and RA and NZR would no doubt want to ring fence their best young talent by having them nominate the Wallabies and All Blacks respectively as their desired Test nation before any move overseas was made.

But the argument that it would divulge state secrets is nowadays largely irrelevant, such has been the spread of both player and coach IP across the world; it's just that most of it has left New Zealand and none has gone the other way.

It would also be a way to help to allay fears of a lopsided trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition -- which was said to be NZR's chief concern when they were pursuing only an expanded Super Rugby Aotearoa -- and ensure talent equalisation across the 12 or however many number of teams included.

It may also be a way to help curtail the player drain to the north.

Clearly, a further thawing of relations between NZR and RA, a process that already seems to be well underway following last week's announcement of the crossover trans-Tasman series for 2021, would also need to occur but there is also a belief that Australia and New Zealand need to be tighter than ever given the shifting boundaries of World Rugby powerplay.

But there is a genuine opportunity to create something truly special and unique, to revive a Super Rugby competition that draws on the quality it had some 15 years ago, but also one that engages a modern audience that trades on one key ingredient: hope.

The belief that no matter how bad last season was, how eye-stingingly ugly the viewing might have been, there is always at least some cause for optimism about what the following year may hold.

It may all seem a bit fanciful but in this uncertain new era, every opportunity should be explored. And rugby should never be afraid to look beyond itself for ideas on potential self-improvement, no matter how outrageous they might seem.