AFL Rich 100: First 50 players revealed
They are football's marquee men.
In the AFL pay pyramid, it is the cream of the crop who most draw fans to the game. Images of those players also adorn the posters plastered across bedroom walls right across the country.
Quite rightly, it is the superstars who earn the biggest pay packets to match their amazing talents and extraordinary dedication.
But their performances away from home and loved ones in 2020 will come at a big discount.
While few football fans will get out a violin to play a sympathetic tune, it was the players who agreed to a pay cut of about 28 per cent to help save the game this season.
And when the Herald Sun tasked a reporting team of Glenn McFarlane, Jon Ralph and Jay Clark with building a list of footy's top 100 paid players this year, two themes became apparent.
How truth is often far from perception when it comes to the wild figures that are thrown about regarding player salaries.
And how those top 100 players have gone over and above to hand back more than $20 million in salaries to keep the game afloat while living in hubs away from family and friends.
Compiling the salaries for the list required hundreds of calls with industry figures and weeks of cross-checking to build a complete picture.
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The Herald Sun's list includes the player's initial 2020 salary and a revised figure taking into account this year's "COVID cut".
AFL players contracted to earn $1 million this year are sacrificing a minimum of $280,000 in wages and those on $600,000 are effectively handing back about $170,000.
Each year the AFL releases a list of pay bands that reveal how many players are millionaires and how many fall into each pay bracket.
And yet for all the focus on wages, some of the speculation is wildly off target.
Take Gold Coast's Lachie Weller, an ex-Fremantle player who crossed to the Suns at the end of 2017 on an annual salary the industry has widely speculated is $800,000.
In reality, his base salary is about $400,000, with incentives that can get him to $500,000 - nowhere near the AFL's top 100 earners.
Players remain sensitive about their pay rate but as this list shows, many take far less money than a lot of us would believe in order to keep premiership lists together or to accept long-term security.
The list is based on 2020 wages, so front or back-ending of deals can produce surprising rankings.
Today, we count down from 100 to 51 in the Herald Sun's top-100 AFL earners. Come back Sunday to see the players ranked 1-50.
HOW IT WORKS
* Player's contracted salary for 2020 to the best of our information. A number of players are in the same wage band. Salaries can alter depending on bonuses.
* Each AFL player is losing around 28 per cent of his 2020 contract salary because of COVID-19.
Originally published as AFL Rich 100: First 50 players revealed