The Highest-Paid NRL Player In 2023

There might be some surprises in here...

The Highest-Paid NRL Player In 2023

Following the increase to the NRL’s salary cap, the league’s biggest and best players are finally starting to see their contracts going up relative to their performances on the pitch, with more and more players earning over that $1 million a year mark. Step into the world of the NRL as we explore the top 10 highest-paid players of this season.

The significance these players have for their sides cannot be understated, when teams are struggling to retain their best players due to a strict NRL salary cap, these world-class players have earned their record-breaking contracts to deliver for their sides week in, week out.

Here, we delve into the careers and achievements of these elite footy stars and take a look at whether they’ve justified their bumper multi-year deals.

Kalyn Ponga

Image: AAP

Newcastle Knights
Annual Salary: $1.4 million

Topping our list is Kalyn Ponga, Newcastle Knight’s talismanic fullback who burst onto the rugby scene aged just 18 years old. Ponga joined Newcastle in 2018, signing a contract that would make him the highest-paid teenager in NRL history.

Now 25, Ponga’s $1.4 million-a-year deal makes him the highest-paid NRL player for 2023.

Nathan Cleary

Image: @_nathancleary

Penrith Panthers
Annual Salary: $1.3 million

Coming in 2nd is Penrith Panther’s captain and NRL poster boy Nathan Cleary whose $1.3 million-a-year contract means he just misses out on the top spot.

A product of the Panthers’ elite academy, Cleary made his NRL first-team debut aged just 19 against Melbourne Storm at five-eighth, going on to play 15 games for this side, and finished with 3 tries and 52 goals – the highest scorer that year with 116 points.

Cleary led the Panthers to back-to-back NRL Premiership wins in 2021 and 2022, and is on course to captain his side to a third consecutive title this season – money well spent, I’d say.

Daly Cherry-Evans

Image: Getty

Manly Sea Eagles
Annual Salary: $1.2 million

Manly Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans is a name familiar to rugby fans all over the country; a stalwart of his NRL side, Cherry-Evans first made his first-team debut in 2011 winning the NRL Grand Final in his first season.

Cherry-Evans signed a mammoth 10-year, $10 million contract with Manly in 2015 – the longest single contract in NRL history – and has gone on to make 299 appearances, scoring 83 tries.

Daly Cherry-Evans also captained Queensland to State of Origin victories in 2020, 2022 and 2023.

Luke Brooks

Image: Getty

Wests Tigers
Annual Salary: $1.1 million

Luke Brooks has been a perennial figure at Wests Tigers since making his debut as an 18-year-old in 2013. The former Wests junior has become the most capped halfback in the club’s history (203) and the club’s leading try scorer from his position (41).

But after 11 tumultuous seasons at the Wests, the 28-year-old halfback will move on, signing a four-year deal with Manly Sea Eagles. As reported by 7, Brooks’ salary demands assumedly forced a move away once his contract expired at the end of this season, with Tigers reportedly offering just $500,000 a year to commit his future to the club… but that’ll be for another list.

Ben Hunt

Image: AAP

St George Illawarra Dragons
Annual Salary: $1.1 million

Ben Hunt joined the St George Illawarra Dragons from the Broncos in 2018, in the biggest deal in the club’s history: a mouth-watering $1.1 million-a-year deal through to 2025.

Now club captain, Hunt joined the Dragons as one of the game’s best halves but hasn’t been able to lift his side during his five years at the club. This season Hunt rocked the Dragons’ hierarchy after he expressed a desire to return to his native Queensland. A request the club swiftly denied.

“Ben is contracted through to the end of the 2025 season and is a big part of the current and future plans of the Dragons.” a statement from the club said.

James Tedesco

Image: News Corp Australia

Sydney Roosters
Annual Salary: $1.1 million

James Tedesco made his debut for the Sydney Roosters during the 2018 season, immediately guiding his side to the NRL Minor Premiership, and starting for the Roosters as they beat Melbourne in the NRL Grand Final. The Rooster went on to win back-to-back titles, securing a successive Premiership the following year.

Widely considered one of the best fullbacks on the planet, Tedesco’s $1.1 million-a-year deal makes him the sixth highest-paid player in the NRL this season.

Tom Trbojevic

Image: AAP

Manly Sea Eagles
Annual Salary: $1.1 million

The second Manly player on the list, Tom Trbojevic’s $1.1 million-a-year deal puts him firmly in 7th place, signing a four-year contract extension in October 2022.

Tommy Turbo enjoyed arguably, one of the greatest ever seasons by a single player in 2021, scoring 28 tries and 28 try assists for his side, notching 124 tackle breaks and 33 line breaks from just 18 games.

Worth every penny.

David Fifita

Image: Getty

Gold Coast Titans
Annual Salary: $1 million

The youngest player in the Top 10, Gold Coast Titans prized David Fifita away from Brisbane in a record-breaking three-year deal worth over $3 million in 2020.

Harry Grant

Melbourne Storm
Annual Salary: $1 million

Melbourne Storm’s brick wall, Harry Grant led the Storm’s counts in highest overall tackles (846) with a 91.8% efficiency and most tackles per game (averaging 40.3).

Harry Grant won Storm’s Best Forward of the Year 2022, finishing the season with 7 tries and 17 try-assists, earning his $1 million a year, and then some.

Jack Wighton

Image: Keegan Carroll

Canberra Raiders
Annual Salary: $1 million

An NRL stalwart, Jack Wighton rounds out the Top 10, taking home a cool $1 million a year with his lifelong club Canberra Raiders.

The 30-year-old five-eighth has made more than 230 appearances for Canberra since making his first-team debut in 2012, scoring 75 tries.

Check out the complete Top 10 Highest Paid NRL Players 2023 list below.

1Kalyn PongaNewcastle Knights$1.4 million AUD
2Nathan ClearyPenrith Panthers$1.3 million AUD
3Daly Cherry-EvansManly Sea Eagles$1.2 million AUD
4Luke BrooksWests Tigers$1.1 million AUD
5Ben HuntSt George Illawarra Dragons$1.1 million AUD
6James TedescoSydney Roosters$1.1 million AUD
7Tom TrbojevicManly Sea Eagles$1.1 million AUD
8David FifitaGold Coast Titans$1 million AUD
9Harry GrantMelbourne Storm $1 million AUD
10Jack WightonCanberra Raiders$1 million AUD