NRL Rich 100: Rugby league's highest paid players revealed

NRL Rich 100: Rugby league’s highest paid players revealed

North Queensland, Cronulla and Brisbane have built their premiership revival on a shrewd recruitment drive that has transformed the NRL trio from title pretenders to finals contenders.

Just 12 months ago, the Cowboys, Broncos and Sharks were clubs under pressure to get results after bombing out of finals contention, with the Queensland duo finishing in the bottom three.

But News Corp’s exclusive, annual NRL Rich 100 has laid bare how clever recruitment strategies have catapulted the Sharks, Cowboys and Broncos back into premiership contention.

The five buys of the season — Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell (Broncos), Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes (Cronulla) and Chad Townsend (Cowboys) — have produced stunning results for their respective clubs.

NRL Rich 100: The Origin stars snubbed from list


And the cost has been far from a salary cap-busting experience.

The Broncos outlaid a combined $1.35 million for premiership-winning duo Reynolds and Capewell. The Sharks forked out $1.25m to lure Storm pair Finucane and Hynes to the Sutherland Shire, while North Queensland’s $710,000 investment in Townsend, who steered Cronulla to the 2016 title, has paid handsome dividends.

There were huge question marks on Townsend’s Townsville gamble. Critics of the playmaker believed that, at 31, he was washed up and hurtling toward disaster in the tropics.

But after a one-hour meeting in a Sutherland Shire cafe, Cowboys bosses knew Townsend would be the right fit. Their purchase has been vindicated, with Townsend, buoyed by the Cowboys co-captaincy, turning back the clock to pilot North Queensland into the top two.

At No.44 in the Rich 100, Townsend has delivered bang for his buck.

“Chad has been boots-and-all in since day one,” Cowboys football boss Micheal Luck said.

“The first time we met Chad, we were confident he was the guy we needed.

Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

“Todd (Payten, coach), myself and Dane Campbell (recruitment chief) met with Chad in a cafe in Caringbah and for me to watch Chad and Todd talk for an hour, it was like two coaches having a yarn about footy.

“We did our homework on Chad with guys who had played with him. The feedback was we needed a composed on-field general who didn’t get too concerned about what was happening around him.

“He has been great for our group. He has been the ultimate pro and a great mentor and teacher for Tom Dearden (five-eighth partner).

“There are a whole heap of ways to put a roster together and we have taken the approach of trying to get as many guys in there that can contribute and contribute now.

“Chad was exactly what we were looking for as a playmaker and leader.”

At the Sharks, hardworking lock Finucane and cool-headed playmaker Hynes have injected a winning DNA.


After finishing ninth last season, Cronulla turned to a new coach in Craig Fitzgibbon and the rookie NRL mentor believed Finucane and Hynes could bring a fusion of steel and tactical smarts to the Sharks.

The formula has worked — at the right price. Finucane is 66th in the Rich 100 at $625,000, while Hynes is ranked No.72 at $600,000, outstanding value given his remarkable transition from Storm supersub to Cronulla’s main man at halfback.

“I had a relationship with Craig Fitzgibbon since playing under him with Country and NSW Origin, so that’s what drew me to the club,” Finucane said.

“I was involved in grand finals and premierships, so it’s no secret that it was hard to leave Melbourne.

“But I’ve enjoyed my time at the Sharks. It’s an opportunity to be part of helping mold what the club wants to be moving forward.”

Reynolds and Capewell have had a similar impact at the Broncos.

After finishing 14th last year, Brisbane were crying out for leadership and a seasoned playmaker to steer the ship.

Capewell’s premiership know-how is worth every cent at $550,000, while Reynolds has repaid Brisbane’s $800,000 outlay by delivering a finals campaign in his debut season at Red Hill.

“The best way to describe our list is well balanced,” Broncos football boss Ben Ikin said.

“’Reyno’ has this great mix of competitive drive and fun in him and Capewell drives our standards, he isn’t afraid to call out blokes if they are cutting corners at training.

“We constructed a plan on how we wanted our roster to look. Throw in guys like Reynolds and Capewell, guys who have been in big games and won premierships, and we have a nice balance.”

Canterbury’s decision in November 2020 to sign Matt Burton, after just six NRL games with Penrith, to a deal worth $550,000 this season, has been a master stroke.

Although the Bulldogs have struggled this season, Burton’s rise at five-eighth has earned him plenty of plaudits. The 22-year-old is able to negotiate with rival teams for 2024 from November 1, when he will be able to command around $800,000 for his next deal.