Dustin Martin is the AFL’s biggest star.
Dustin Martin is the AFL’s biggest star.

$6m bomb sparks frenzied footy debate

AFL legends have debated who they think the highest paid players in the league deserve to be after a report claimed six stars earned at least $1 million each last season.

A report published in The Age on Thursday indicated half a dozen players were lucky enough to break the seven-figure mark in 2018.

While players' salaries aren't made public by the AFL, the report names Lance Franklin, Tom Lynch, Dustin Martin, Nat Fyfe, Tom Boyd and Jeremy Cameron as the biggest earners in the land.

The speculated list proved to be perfect fodder for debate in the footy world as former players had their say on the merits of the game's richest stars.

Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes said of the names put forward, only Swans star Franklin, Richmond gun Martin and 2015 Brownlow Medallist Fyfe deserved their hefty pay packet.

"Not all of those six, particularly Boyd, Cameron and Lynch, deserved that six-figure salary," Cornes said.

Cornes suggested Geelong midfielder Patrick Dangerfield, Tigers key defender Alex Rance and Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn could all lay claim to demanding a contract worth $1m a season.

Lance Franklin in full flight is something special.
Lance Franklin in full flight is something special.

St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt questioned whether GWS forward Cameron and young Bulldogs star Boyd had been earning their money, suggesting they haven't delivered on their potential.

However, he acknowledged Boyd's standout role in the 2016 grand final win over Sydney made the Bulldogs' investment worth it even if he's regularly struggled to live up to his hype.

"He's an interesting one," Riewoldt said of Cameron. "I think they were right to pay him because at the time he looked destined to be an absolute superstar.

"I think he's a very good player, but as of now, I don't think he's delivered on that price tag. Whether it's injuries, suspension, consistent performance, I still think he's got some work to do to justify that tag.

"You look at the fallout as well. They've lost a number of players, not all for financial reasons, but Dylan Shiel you can point to as a player they've lost because of the financial squeeze and I think Cameron will want a big year this year to justify that price tag."

Tom Boyd (right) has been hit and miss in his career so far.
Tom Boyd (right) has been hit and miss in his career so far.

Speaking about Boyd, who has endured an up-and-down career since being taken as pick No. 1 in the 2013 draft, Riewoldt said: "This is a hard one to wrap your head around because there's obviously the really good grand final performance in amongst poor to average games.

"So what's a premiership worth? If you had to overpay a player knowing they'd deliver on the biggest day and get you over the line, but then you'd be stuck with them for five years at a lofty tag, I think clubs would take it.

"It's probably been worth it based on that one performance.

"No doubt (it's a burden). Players talk. Teammates talk about what players are earning and if they're earning more than they should, that would be a really difficult situation for Tom to be in."

Geelong icon Jimmy Bartel also provided his take on the situation. Asked who he'd be willing to pay the big bucks for, he added West Coast star and marking phenomenon Jeremy McGovern and Giants midfield jet Josh Kelly to his top five alongside Franklin, Fyfe and Martin.

Nat Fyfe is considered a worthy investment.
Nat Fyfe is considered a worthy investment.

"Dustin Martin blew everyone away the season before last winning every award you can win," Bartel said.

"You've also got to factor in the marketability of a player, this guy is just a marketer's dream, especially for the Tiger army."

"If you have to rank them, I think he'd be number one."

Franklin has been a focal point of debate since he signed a lucrative nine-year deal with the Swans worth a reported $10m.

Sydney is yet to win a premiership since acquiring the goal-kicking freak and some have pointed towards the lack of trophies as justification for the deal failing to pay off so far, but Riewoldt doesn't see it that way.

"Lance Franklin is obviously a big tick," Riewoldt said. "It was absolutely right to pay the best player in the game at the time and still currently.

"He has absolutely been value for money and delivered on what he's receiving financially."

Cornes agreed, saying: "He deserves it. His nine-year deal to head to Sydney now looks good value for the Swans. Buddy is closing in on 1000 career goals and is still the most dynamic and powerful forward in the AFL."