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Does Dusty still sneak in? The 10 highest paid AFL players of 2023

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afl highest paid players 2023

All 10 players at the top of the AFL’s highest paid list were million dollar men.

The AFL, in comparison to other codes, has not traditionally paid its elite stars as much as we see in plenty of other sports.

But in recent years, the average player’s salary has rocketed to $400,000. That’s mainly thanks to a lucrative $4.5 billion dollar TV deal that’s seen Foxtel and Seven West Media secure exclusive rights through to 2031.

But who rakes in the most cash?

Here is a list of the 10 top earners in the league, all of whom enjoyed upwards of a million dollars last season.

dustin martin, richmond tigers, highest paid afl players
Is Richmond Tigers superstar Dustin Martin still one of the top earners?

The 10 highest paid players of 2023

This list of the highest paid players in the AFL draws upon data previously published that’s believed to have been sourced from the league’s Players Association.

The figures quoted are solely for the seven-figure salaries each player earned during the 2023 season. They do not take into account any money they might have made from sponsor deals, prize money or other endorsements.

So let’s get into it!

10. Darcy Moore (Collingwood Magpies)

Debut: 2015

Salary 2023: $1.02 million

As skipper of the Pies, Darcy Moore possesses the highest paying deal at Collingwood.

Having played 150 AFL games, the talismanic key defender is worth his weight in gold; his outstanding craft as a game-breaker down back, his experience and influence as one of the best leaders in the league.

He recently signed a six year contract with the Pies, which solidified his role at the club as one of its most valuable people.

9. Tom Lynch (Richmond Tigers)

Debut: 2011

Salary 2023: $1.02 million

From free agent to someone who earns over a million dollars a year – it’s fair to say Tom Lynch has well and truly landed on his feet.

Since joining the Tigers, the All-Australian and two-time premiership-winning key forward has undoubtedly proven he’s one of the league’s top assets… and therefore worth every cent.

8. Jeremy Cameron (Geelong Cats)

Debut: 2012

Salary 2023: $1.05 million

One of the best kickers in the game, Jeremy Cameron first displayed his immense talent at Greater Western Sydney, before the Geelong Cats became his preferred new destination and handed over a war chest of Draft capital in the 2020 Trade Period.

He reportedly took a pay cut to squeeze into the Cats’ tight salary cap situation, but given he still earns over seven figures (and was a part of Geelong’s 2022 premiership), he’s not complaining.

7. Christian Petracca (Melbourne Demons)

Debut: 2016

Salary 2023: $1.05 million

The Dees are showing plenty of faith in Christian Petracca, recently locking him up to a seven-year contract. And why wouldn’t you? He was instrumental in their 2021 Grand Final Triumph, winning the Norm Smith medal in the process.

As one of the game’s most exciting talents, more fans than not agreed it was a sound decision to tie him to a long-term deal.

christian petracca, afl

6. Clayton Oliver (Melbourne Demons)

Debut: 2016

Salary 2023: $1.05 million

At just 26 years old, Clayton Oliver already earns over seven figure salary thanks – in some part – to being a four-time Best and Fairest award winner.

His bank balance is also set to swell significantly further, too, due to the bumper seven-year deal he recently signed with the Melbourne Demons — worth more than $7 million total.

The Dees and Oliver have been in some hot water this off season and will be fully locked in on ensuring the 2024 season plays out like the success of 2021.

5. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

Debut: 2014

Salary 2023: $1.1 million

Many observers thought Marcus Bontempelli was in with a real shout of winning the Brownlow last season. But that didn’t quite happen, as his Western Bulldogs side faded to miss the top eight.

The performances of their skipper, however, were undoubtedly a shining light in what was a season they’ll ultimately want to put behind them.

The Bont remains integral to the Dogs’ chances of putting together a competitive run in 2024.

marcus bontempelli, western bulldogs, top earners, afl
Western Bulldogs gun Marcus Bontempelli

4. Tim Kelly (West Coast Eagles)

Debut: 2018

Salary 2023: $1.1 million

While undoubtedly talented, some people might be surprised to see Kelly’s name so high on this list. But there’s no doubt his West Coast side lost a lot of relevance as the 2023 season unfolded — apart from the reality that the side was heading towards the top pick in the Draft.

Kelly continues to show sparks of brilliance in a tough environment, with an uncompetitive team.

It was his call to ultimately pack up from Geelong and move back West, but the Eagles gave up a tonne to secure the classy ball-winner.

But whether he’s in a team winning games any time soon or not, his efforts are being handsomely rewarded.

3. Jeremy McGovern (West Coast Eagles)

Debut: 2014

Salary 2023: $1.1 million

It’s a similar story for one of Kelly’s team mates.

Imposing key defender Jeremy McGovern has been a stalwart for the Eagles for over a decade.

Now aged 31 and coming to the end of his five year deal, there was talk he might move to an Eastern-based club for one last shake at a premiership.

But amidst reputed interest from the Giants and Swans, he recently penned a new two-year contract that probably takes him close to retirement.

But he ultimately tasted premiership success with West Coast, back in 2018, and will be celebrated as one of the great key defenders of his generation.

2. Nat Fyfe (Fremantle Dockers)

Debut: 2010

Salary 2023: $1.15 million

Staying in Western Australia again, it should come as no surprise that two-time Brownlow medalist Nat Fyfe earns a seven figure sum.

Having also been named an All-Australian three times, he has absolutely earnt one of the highest player salaries in the league.

That said, he’s reached the end of a lucrative six year deal with the Dockers and won’t be yielding that kind of cash going forward. His best footy is sadly behind him — but that’s not to say he can’t still be an important contributor for Freo over the next couple of seasons at least.

nat fyfe, fremantle dockers, highest paid
Fremantle great Nat Fyfe

1. Dustin Martin (Richmond Tigers)

Debut: 2010

Salary 2023: $1.35 million

You might’ve guessed it. That Rolls Royce of a footballer, Dustin Martin, is the league’s highest paid player.

While no longer the player he once was, Richmond are still paying back the unrivalled production he delivered across the club’s triple premiership dynasty — claiming the Norm Smith medal in all three successful Grand Finals.

He’s now entering the twilight of his career, but has earned every last penny and will go down as a Tigers legend when it’s all said and done.

AFL salary cap vs sport’s top earners

Remaining at $13,540,000 for each team, at least for now, the best paid players will still never receive as much as the top earners in other sports — which makes sense, given the nature of it and how team-focused it is, both on the field and from a cultural standpoint.

But as the average player is becoming richer, plenty of stars like Isaac Heeney, Josh Kelly and Patrick Cripps will soon look to renegotiate new deals in an evolving environment.

Inevitably, more and more players will earn a lucrative contracts and become million dollar men (per season).

This list will most likely look reasonably different in the next couple of years.

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