Future millionaires: Next Gen stars destined for NRL riches
Go through the NRL Rich 100 and of the top 10 players currently earning $1 million-a-season, only three for mine are playing at the consistent standard that should demand a seven-figure salary.
Daly Cherry-Evans is worth it. So too Nathan Cleary.
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But the fact the world's best player James Tedesco sits 10th on that list suggests there are too many players ahead of him earning overs right now.
Yet that does not mean when the next best of the best come off contract in coming years market forces and desperation won't force clubs to pay whatever it takes to secure the best talent.
The fact is if NRL clubs have money to spend, they spend it - and supply and demand will determine who joins rugby league's top earners.
That being the case, we've gazed into our crystal ball and come up with the next list of potential NRL $1 million men.
The young Brisbane powerhouse has already made his fortune thanks to a phenomenal three-year $3.5 million deal with Gold Coast. Without doubt the most wanted young forward on the open market and so deserves to be on the biggest bucks. Whether or not he will live up to the hype is an argument for another day.
Another guaranteed to be earning seven figures come 2021. The flying Manly fullback currently sits 12th on the list on $900,000 but is one player worth every cent. That goes up to a reported $1.1 million next year. Again, if Turbo was still on the open market he could name his price so the Sea Eagles have done a good deal any way you look at it.
Newcastle has reportedly agreed to pay Ponga $4.5 million over four years and on the surface you'd probably say he's worth it. The problem I have right now is that the Knights haven't won back-to-back games since the opening two rounds and Ponga has played all but one match this year.
Talk is Keary will take unders to sign a new three-year extension at Bondi on just over $900,000-a-season. Yet if he went to market Keary could name his price. You'd imagine the Roosters would be filthy we ever came up with the Rich 100 given all the attention it has directed at Keary's current salary of $700,000. That puts the NRL's most influential playmaker 51st on the top 100 list.
When Cameron Smith retires Munster will be worth whatever the Storm can afford to pay. Said to be on $850,000-a-season and doesn't come off contract until the end of 2023. Even then Munster will only be 29. In footy years that's when the best playmakers usually only come of age.
For all the controversy and criticism, Latrell makes headlines because he is a genuine star on and off the field. And people seem to forget he's still only 23. Regardless of what anyone says when he comes off contract at the end of next year he will be weighing up offers of $1 million-a-season because his talent is worth the risk. Also, another year playing fullback surely won't reduce his value.
Just 19 with only 15 NRL grade games in the bag, but as Greg Alexander said this week this young Panther is "exceptional". News Corp reported this week Penrith is manoeuvring to lock him up on a $1.5 million deal until the end of 2024. At that point Crichton will still only be 24 and that's when he'll earn the really big bucks.
If you were building an NRL club and every player was off contract this young dummy half would be among the most sought after. And you can throw any name you want into that argument as far as I'm concerned. At 22, still has two more years after this where he is contracted with Melbourne. But if Grant continues on the same trajectory he'll have every club in the NRL chasing him by then.
Outside of Nathan Cleary, rugby league's best young playmaker. At 20 is already earning $520,000 and you'd probably say that's a bargain by today's NRL standards. But it's just a fact Brown will demand $1 million when he next comes off contract at the end of 2023. Like young Grant, you would build a club around him.
I know it's ridiculous to have a 16-year-old on this list but there's a real 'LeBron' feel about this kid. And if you think the hype about Suaalii is crazy, LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was in high school - and they'd play his games on national TV. I reckon if Fox Sports televised Suaalii playing right now the numbers would be huge.
Originally published as Future millionaires: Next Gen stars destined for NRL riches