Code-hopper Israel Folau’s lucrative 13-game AFL stint has him ranked as one of Australian sport’s highest earners for 2012, according to BRW’s annual rich list, with Dynamo Moscow’s Luke Wilkshire emerging as the country’s best-paid footballer.
Folau’s time with Greater Western Sydney was largely viewed as a failure but that didn’t stop him pocketing a cool $1.5 million this year – $115,000 a game – before the former NRL star quit the AFL to joining Super Rugby’s NSW Waratahs.
However, it might be the one and only time Folau’s name appears on the list – there is only one rugby union player in sport’s 50, George Smith, who plies his trade in France and Japan, while no rugby league players appear.
Folau sits at No.36 on a list topped by NBA star Andrew Bogut, whose estimated yearly earnings were $13.5 million, with three other AFL players in Gold Coast’s Gary Ablett (No.25, $2 million), Giant Tom Scully (No.34, $1.8 million) and former Carlton captain Chris Judd (No.45, $1.2 million).
Red Bull’s Formula One driver Mark Webber is second on the list with $12 million, golfer Adam Scott is third with $10.5 million, former MotoGP rider Casey Stoner is fourth with $8 million and Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke rounds out the top five with earnings of $5.5 million a year.
Socceroo defender Wilkshire, who has been playing in Russia since 2008, is the best-paid Australian of any football code, sitting sixth on BRW’s list with earnings of $5 million.
Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, Major League Soccer star Tim Cahill and Australian cricket allrounder Shane Watson are all estimated to have earned $4.5 million from salaries and endorsements. Oakland’s Major League Baseball pitcher Grant Balfour rounds out the top 10 with $4 million.
US Open tennis winner Samantha Stosur is the highest woman on the list in 20th spot with $2.5 million.
The lowest-profile name is Olympic show-jumper Edwina Tops-Alexander, at No.38, who pocketed $1.5 million.
Golf remains the greatest pulling sport for Australians with 10 players in the top 50, including Jason Day (11th, $4 million) and Aaron Baddeley (12th, $3.8 million).
Golf is followed by cricket with nine representatives, including the retired Ricky Ponting (No.15, $3.5 million), with India’s IPL riches proving a boon for the likes of David Warner (16th, $3.2 million) and the Hussey brothers Michael and David (No.30 and 31, $2 million each).
Soccer has eight players on the list, including Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer (No.13, $3.5 million) and Aston Villa’s Brett Holman (No.14, $3.5 million) and motor sport has five.
NRL players’ calls for higher wages appear to be justified, with no league players among Australian sport’s top earners for 2012.