Sam Burgess

There’s no doubt that when players want to make money in Rugby League, there’s only one place to go—the NRL. It’s the biggest league in the sport in terms of both sponsorship and fan base, so it should come as no surprise that it’s also home to the biggest player contracts. With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a closer look at just how much money the superstars of the NRL are on.

These players still have some way to go to make it onto the list of sport’s richest athletes, but in the world of rugby league, they’re the top earners. In fact, every single player on our list is on at least AUS$1 million a year.

Kieran Foran – Canterbury Bulldogs – $1,000,000

At the time of his unveiling as a Bulldogs player, it was the worst-kept secret in Rugby League history—Foran was leaving the Warriors. At the time he cited his need to be closer to his loved ones as the reason for the move, but we reckon a certain million-dollar-a-year contract may have also had something to do with it.

Sam Burgess – South Sydney Rabbitohs – $1,000,000

Back in November 2015 it was reported that Englishman Burgess was set to earn a whopping $1.5 million a year with the Rabbitohs. That figure has come down somewhat as we got a clearer picture of how much the player actually earns. His latest deal was worth $1 million a year and will see him stay with the club that gave him his NRL chance until he reaches the age of 34. According to the man himself, he’ll likely retire at that point.

Anthony Milford – Brisbane Broncos – $1,000,000

After what seemed like months and months of speculation, Anthony Milford signed a new contract with the Brisbane Broncos back in 2017. There was talk of him going to the Storm, but his bumper paycheck will see him stay in Brisbane until 2021. At that point, though, he’ll only be 26 and in his prime. Who knows how much he’ll get in his next contract?

Michael Morgan – North Queensland Cowboys – $1,000,000

After signing a bumper 5-year contract last year, Michael Morgan looks set to be a Cowboy for life. The enigmatic playmaker was to take the mantle from Johnathan Thurston at the end of 2018, but a terrible season so far has seen fans question the abilities of the entire squad. Although they still have a mathematical chance of repeating last season’s surprise Grand Final appearance, everyone, including their star half, knows that the only reason they’re there is due to the bad form of their rivals.

Shaun Johnson – Cronulla Sharks – $1,000,000

Just last year, Kiwi superstar and nifty player Shaun Johnson crossed the ditch to join the ranks of the Sharks on a nice, fat salary of a million per year for three years. There were rumours that he would only sign a one-year contract, but at the age of 28 he did the right thing and negotiated something a bit more long-term.

Jack Bird – Brisbane Broncos – $1,000,000

It was a decision that rocked the Sharks. Their star man who had won the premiership with the club had decided to jump ship and move to a new club. The utility man was offered a mouth-watering million a year to move to Brisbane, and with Milford re-signing in the same year, there was a great deal of potential in the move. Unfortunately, this year saw his season end early due to ACL damage.

Cooper Cronk – Sydney Roosters – $1,000,000

As Cooper neared the end of his career, he knew he had one last big contract in him, and he was proven right. At 33 years of age, he left the Storm and signed with the Roosters on a million-a-year salary. He’s coming to the end of that contract and has already stated that he will call time on his career—a career that he could end on a winning note, as the Roosters are the favourites to clinch the Premiership.  

Angus Crichton – Sydney Roosters – $1,000,000

Crichton was in a strange position in 2018. He announced in 2017 that he had agreed to terms with the Roosters for the 2019 season but would continue to play for their rivals, the Rabbitohs, for the 2018 season. It was a bizarre scenario but one that he knuckled down and dealt with. This season he started the first year of a three-year, million-dollar-a-season contract.

Ben Hunt – St. George Illawarra Dragons – $1,200,000

When the Dragons announced that Hunt would join them on a huge $6-million-dollar salary, many assumed they’d heard wrong. But they hadn’t. His was the beneficiary of one of the richest deals in NRL history, which would earn him a massive $1.2 million a year. Of course he opted to leave the Broncos.

Daly Cherry-Evans – Manly Sea Eagles – $1,300,000

This was the first of the ‘lifetime’ deals that have become quite common in the sport. The Sea Eagles were so enamored with Cherry-Evans’ skills that they signed him up for 8 years on a whopping $1.3 million a season. It was the league’s longest player contract until Jason Taumalolo signed his ten year deal, and it will see him stay at the club until his 34th birthday.

Now, it’s important to note that there have been many players in the league who have earned more during their careers. With endorsements and image rights, players can make a serious amount of money in a very short space of time. But in terms of current contracts, nothing beats these players.