More players than ever have been paid seven figures, overall wages hit new high

Marcus Bontempelli, Toby Greene and Patrick Cripps. Pictures: AFL Photos

NINETEEN AFL players earned $1 million or more in 2023.

In figures released by the AFL to clubs on Monday, it was revealed the average salary of an AFL-listed player in the 2023 season was $441,464, up from $406,105 the previous year. 

The 2023 season was the first year of a new collective bargaining agreement, with all 18 clubs granted $15 million in Total Player Payments, 11 per cent more than 2022 numbers.

>> CHECK OUT THE FULL TPP SUMMARY BELOW

Gross player payments reached $280.9 million, up from $257.6 million the previous season.

Of the 19 players who reached seven-figure salaries last year, eight were paid more than $1.2 million, five received between $1.1 and $1.2 million, and six received between $1 and $1.1 million.

In comparison, there were just three players who received more than $1.2 million in 2022. 

The 2023 numbers are way up on the COVID-19 ravaged seasons of 2020 and 2021, where average wages respectively were $260,000 (17 games only were played in the 2020 home-and-away season) and $372,000.

That total of 19 million-dollar players is up by seven from 2022. In 2021, when the League was still recovering from the impact of COVID-19, just five players were paid at least $1 million. 

While the AFL and its clubs never publicly link names to the wages, it is known Dustin Martin (Richmond), Nat Fyfe (Fremantle), Jeremy McGovern (West Coast), Tom Lynch (Richmond), Brodie Grundy (Melbourne, now Sydney), Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs), Toby Greene (GWS), Stephen Coniglio (GWS), Jeremy Cameron (Geelong), Christian Petracca (Melbourne), Patrick Cripps (Carlton), Tim Kelly (West Coast), Clayton Oliver (Melbourne), Lachie Neale (Brisbane), Darcy Moore (Collingwood) and Josh Kelly (GWS) were among the highest paid.

Some of the bigger deals in 2023 may have been back-ended contracts, with veteran pair David Swallow (Gold Coast) and Andrew Gaff (West Coast) also believed to be among those who had the biggest contracts.

In total, there were 159 players who earned more than $600,000. A decade earlier, in 2013, there were just 41 players above that threshold. 

And the increases weren’t just limited to the top bracket of earners. For the first time in the League’s history, every primary listed player earned more than $100,000. 

Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver after Melbourne’s win over North Melbourne in round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

While the collective wages paid to AFL players have never been higher, they pale in comparison with their NFL counterparts.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was paid $80 million ($52 million USD) for the just completed 2023-24 season, and has four more years of that deal to run.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who on Monday led his team to Super Bowl victory for the third time, was paid $69 million ($45 million USD) for the season.

1990-2023 Summary of AFL Player Earnings

$ 1990* 2000* 2010* 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
$0-$60,000 442 87 9 0 0 1 1 0
$60,001-$100,000 88 132 67 31 113 18 10 0
$100,001-$200,000 8 237 153 166 189 132 125 128
$200,001-$300,000 80 158 124 142 119 126 106
$300,001-$400,000 22 91 123 131 119 109 96
$400,001-$500,000 8 45 107 60 109 95 91
$500,001-$600,000 9 48 40 66 71 80
$600,001-$700,000 2 8 42 13 46 39 54
$700,001-$800,000 2 29 4 25 32 42
$800,001-$900,000 2 16 2 10 24 29
$900,001-$1,000,000 4 7 2 3 15 15
$1,000,001-$1,100,000 4 1 1 6 6
$1,100,001-$1,200,000 3 1 1 3 5
$1,200,001+ 2 0 3 3 8
TOTAL 538 568 548 702 698 655 659 660

* 1990-2010 figures only include players who played a senior game 

2010-2023 AFL total player earnings

Year Gross player
payments ($)
Average gross
earnings ($)
2010 136,698,418 226,165
2011 153,699,344 237,388
2012 173,717,042 251,559
2013 181,560,623 265,179
2014 188,944,174 283,029
2015 200,199,169 302,104
2016 204,305,032 309,208
2017 231,354,739 352,470
2018 240,417,657 362,471
2019 242,345,042 363,430
2020 170,043,949 259,651
2021 233,853,380 372,224
2022 257,574,937 406,105
2023 280,862,089 441,464

* All figures related to Primary Listed Players