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Here are the 10 highest paid NRL players of 2023. Do any look out of place?

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NRL highest paid players of 2023

The average salary in the NRL is believed to be around $375,000. But there were 10 players who all earned seven figure sums last season. That was thanks to mega, multi-year deals.

But who are they? We’re glad you asked.

Having already published out top 24 players for season 2024, it’s time to look over the best paid from last season.

Here’s our 10-to-1 of the highest paid players from 2023, based off reports and estimates — since player salaries aren’t actually publicised.

Do you think their performances represented value for money? That’s for you to decide… and you can leave us a comment at the bottom.

nathan cleary, penrith panthers
Where’s the 2023 Grand Final hero, Nathan Cleary (right), sit on the highest paid list?

The NRL’s 10 Highest Paid Players of 2023

Just reiterating, this list of the ten highest paid players in NRL is based off figures that have been reported and spoken about from credible sources.

These numbers do not include sponsorships or other endorsements.

10. Mitchell Moses (Parramatta Eels)

Salary 2023: $1.05 million

Debut: 2014

Kicking off this list of the 10 highest paid NRL players is Mitchell Moses. Widely regarded as one of the most dependable halfbacks in the game, the No.7 recently committed to the Eels by penning a deal with reported contract values that should see his salary increase to $1.2 million by 2027-28.

9. Addin Fonua-Blake (New Zealand Warriors)

Salary 2023: $1.05 million

Debut: 2016

Christmas came early for the Warriors when Addin Fonua-Blake signed for them in 2021. The prop has become a key player for the New Zealand team as an enforcer who dominates opponents.

Contracted until 2026, Fonua-Blake’s performances keep improving year after year, so the Warriors will no doubt want to tie him down to a longer deal that should see him feature higher on this list.

8. James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)

Salary 2023: $1.10 million

Debut: 2012

Given that he wears number 1 for the Sydney Roosters, New South Wales and Australia, it would make sense if James Tedesco featured at number one on this NRL list. But unfortunately, he doesn’t.

Nevertheless, few people would begrudge the man fondly referred to as ‘Teddy’ if he was, given that he is one of the best fullbacks in the league, always involved in the action and making clutch plays when most needed.

James Tedesco image
Can Roosters skipper James Tedesco return to his best in 2024?

7. Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Salary 2023: $1.10 million

Debut: 2009

Having started his career at the Brisbane Broncos, Ben Hunt is now playing as captain and halfback of the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Undoubtedly a big fish in a small pond, he initially joined the club on a huge five-year deal back in 2017.

With that deal running out last year, the veteran signed on for two more years with the Dragons. Things went sideways at the troubled club down the ‘back nine’ of last season; he’s made it clear he wants out. And fair enough — the club is a basket case. But there’s no denying his lofty salary made it a complicated affair.

Ben Hunt, NRL, Dragons, Titans, Broncos, Bulldos, Raiders
Will Ben Hunt get to the Gold Coast at some stage in 2024?

6. Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)

Salary 2023: $1.15 million

Debut: 2015

Tom Trbojevic arguably has the coolest nickname in the NRL – Tommy Turbo. He also receives one of the bigger salaries, which is why he features on this list of the game’s highest player earnings.

Widely considered one of the best players in his position, if it wasn’t for a run of unfortunate injuries his skill and determination could see him being paid more by the Sea Eagles. For sure, if he was a free agent, most of the NRL teams would want him playing for them.

5. Luke Brooks (Manly Sea Eagles)

Salary 2023: $1.15 million

Debut: 2013

You might be surprised to see Luke Brooks so high on this list of NRL players’ earnings, given he has never played representative football for Australia or New South Wales, or won a premiership with the West Tigers — for whom he played up until 2023. In fact, he’s infamously never even played in a final; hence the Tigers’ excruciating finals drought.

He must have elite representation — Brooks has joined Manly on a new multi-year deal, but not quite on this amount of coin. It’s a reported $660,000 a season over four years, so his time in the top 10 is done.

4. Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Sea Eagles)

Salary 2023: $1.2 million

Debut: 2011

Thanks in part to his megabucks eight-year contract with Manly, Daly Cherry-Evans has featured on this list for quite a few consecutive seasons. He’s undoubtedly repaid that faith, with consistent production year-on-year, after helping the Sea Eagles to a premiership in his rookie season in 2011.

He’s also helped Queensland in plenty of successful State of Origin campaigns and was part of the Kangaroos squad that won the Rugby League World Cup last year.

Imagine how different his career could have been had he not backflipped on his agreement with the Gold Coast Titans all those years ago.

3. Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)

Salary 2023: $1.25 million

Debut: 2014

Even though Munster slots in at number three on this list of the highest paid players, there is a good case to argue that he should be earning more — which would be a possibility from next season had he decided to join the Dolphins. But he extended with Melbourne earlier in 2023, keeping him in Victoria until at least 2027.

Munster finished top on our top 23 players for 2023 and remains in the top five for next season’s list (which is linked at the top of the story).

2. Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)

Salary 2023: $1.3 million

Debut: 2016

Speaking of the top players lists referenced just above, Cleary has taken Munster’s mantle and he’s paid accordingly.

Given his Herculean performance in dragging the Panthers back from the jaws of defeat to win the 2023 Grand Final against the Brisbane Broncos, few could argue that he doesn’t deserve to be one of the players earning over seven figures a year.

If Cleary fires again next season, who is to say Penrith can’t make it four NRL premierships in a row?

1. Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights)

Salary 2023: $1.4 million

Debut: 2016

kalyn ponga, knights, highest paid, nrl
Is Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga capable of continuing his Dally M form into 2024?

From wonder-kid to 2023 Dally M Medal winner and captain of the Newcastle Knights, Ponga has enjoyed a meteoric rise, reflected by his pay cheque. It’s hard to argue his worth after a stellar campaign that led Newcastle to a stunning win streak and journey to the finals.

With four more years left on his contract, the Knights will hope he can be the catalyst to them winning their first Grand Final since 2001.

Conclusion

So there you have it; the list of the top 10 highest paid players in the National Rugby League.

As more money is injected into the game through TV deals, clubs will surely start to pay their best players higher salaries.

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