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The salary cap burglars

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Roar Guru
22nd April, 2021
1887 Reads

We all know that the NRL salary cap was introduced to level the playing field when it comes to player retention and recruitment.

Otherwise, according to the theory, the successful teams will just continue to attract and retain the better players while the cellar dwellers won’t be able to attract the talent required to drag them off the bottom. And we all know it’s working. Right?


What actually happens in terms of talent, in the words of Midnight Oil, is that the rich get richer, the poor get the picture. In order to compete in the player market the battling clubs end up paying overs for players they hope will bring them immediate success. We all know this doesn’t work, as the NRL is now seemingly awash with players earning two and three times their real value, almost invariably playing for clubs stuck in the bottom eight.

Here is a sobering list of some players being reportedly paid far too much for what they do – or don’t do for that matter. Good luck to them and their managers if they can coax this sort of money out of desperate clubs, but it invariably doesn’t help the club and leaves them badly short-changed.

The list is based on 2021 playing form only and excludes players who have spent most of the season out with injury. Reported salary is in brackets.


Daly Cherry-Evans
$1.3 million
DCE is reportedly the highest paid player in the game and captain of Manly, who have won just two of their six games this season. His stats of one try, two try assists and no line break assists are hardly the numbers expected of a player earning $52,000 per game. By the time this generous deal runs out he’ll be sending out invitations for his 35th birthday.

David Fifita
$1.3 million
Fifita’s Gold Coast team are three from six, and he somehow landed this contract after three unremarkable years for the Broncos and three Origins, including one win, for Queensland. He looked good in the Titans wins over Brisbane, North Queensland and Newcastle but largely went missing in losses to the Warriors, Canberra and Manly. The highest paid forward in the game’s history needs to be making a bigger effort to justify his alleged salary.

Valentine Holmes
$1 million
Prior to his failed NFL experiment he was one of the best wingers in the game, with 17 tries in 13 games for Australia and eight tries for Queensland in five Origin appearances. Signed by the Cowboys in 2020 for an extraordinary six years on big bucks, he was going to solve their fullback problems and light up their backline. Now alternating between average winger and lazy fullback, it’s hard to see the Cowboys getting an appropriate return on their investment over the next four years after this.

Valentine Holmes

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Anthony Milford
$1 million
Not much more needs to be said about Milford’s performances this year. His form has totally deserted him and he finds himself playing for Souths Logan.

Moses Mbye
Now firmly entrenched as a bench utility for the Tigers, Mbye must be the highest paid player per minute of game time in the NRL. The bad news for the Tigers is that his contract has another year to run after this.

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Josh Dugan
Dugan isn’t the worst performing player at the Sharks by a long shot, but he’s in their top three worst value for money. Once a strong representative fullback, his form this year is that of just an average club centre.

Luke Brooks
Luke Brooks’s 2021 season looks pretty much like every other season he’s had at the Tigers: unimpressive. He’s contracted for two more years after this, but it will be interesting to see if he hangs on at the Tigers with the arrival of Jackson Hastings next year.

Mat Moylan
Moylan’s stats this year are one try, one try assist and two line break assists, so you’d be forgiven for asking what he’s doing in the list of top-20 earners in the NRL. The Sharks will no doubt be happy to see the back of him this year.

Matt Moylan

(Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Andrew Fifita
Not long ago one of the most damaging forwards in the game, Andrew Fifita hasn’t looked like getting a run in first grade this year, but he’s still reportedly soaking up a large chunk of the Sharks cap and could conceivably do so again next year if they can’t find him a new home.


Russell Packer
Packer has spent all of this year and most of last either in reserve grade or suspended, and this at a time when the Tigers are crying out for an experienced forward leader. The good news for the Tigers is that Packer’s contract ends this year.

Dylan Napa
The Bulldogs have made some bad signings in recent years but none worse than Dylan Napa, who has failed to deliver at all this year. No doubt the Dogs are counting the days until his departure.

Unfortunately this isn’t an exhaustive list and really represents just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to players being paid well beyond their ability, effort and attitude. No doubt you can name a lot more.