AFL rich list: Who are the AFL’s most underpaid players?
AFL rich list: Who are the AFL’s most underpaid players?

Who are footy’s most underpaid stars?

He is the most damaging weapon in a North Melbourne midfield crying out for more star power.

But despite winning two best-and-fairests and an All-Australian jacket in 2018, Shaun Higgins, 32, has never taken home the big bucks.

Like a raft of Richmond premiership heroes and North Melbourne teammate Robbie Tarrant, Higgins is up there as one of the AFL's biggest bargains.

 

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The Kangaroos' gun midfielder, who cops a weekly tag and turned down Geelong's advances last year, is surprisingly not among the Herald Sun's top 100 AFL earners in 2020.

Higgins, who like Tarrant was contracted to be paid about $550,000 this year, has helped create room for the big-name Kangaroos' free agency target who is yet to come through the door.

 

 

Greater Western Sydney linebreaker Zac Williams, 25, is the latest multi-million dollar target for the Roos as he strives to make the move from defensive runner to midfield star.

And like former Port Adelaide speedster Jared Polec, Williams's pay packet would almost certainly top Higgins' immediately, should he walk in the door at Arden St.

It helps explain why Geelong sensed an opportunity when it came at Higgins last year, even though he was contracted to the Roos for another season.

Ultimately, the Geelong Falcons product inked a one-year extension to stay at North and last weekend racked up a season-high 36 disposals against reigning premier Richmond.

Former North Melbourne football manager Cameron Joyce pulled off one of the game's most successful free agency raids when he poached Higgins from the Western Bulldogs and signed him to a modest deal at the end of 2014.

Six years on, he is still producing at an elite level.

 

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Shaun Higgins could have earned much more at another club.
Shaun Higgins could have earned much more at another club.

 

Likewise, Tarrant, 31, has consistently got the job done on the game's most dangerous key forwards and has been widely considered one of the game's most unheralded defensive stars.

But the truth is, while there are plenty of highly-paid players in the AFL world, every club has got its underpaid stars and bargain buys like Higgins and Tarrant.

At Richmond, Kane Lambert, Shane Edwards, Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin have batted above their pay grade for years.

But instead of getting a big lick of the wages ice cream, the true reward for their loyalty and sacrifice over the years is their pair of premiership medals and revered status as Punt Rd heroes.

In particular Lambert, 28, started at Richmond as a mature-age rookie on minimum wages and despite interest from cashed-up rivals in recent years he has remained extremely loyal.

The Blake Caracella protégé finished second and third in the best-and-fairest in 2017-18 and eighth last year and has been internally lauded for his role in picking up Dustin Martin's man in the middle of the ground. He was taken pick No.46 in the 2015 rookie draft.

 

Kane Lambert has been a bargain for the Tigers. Pic: Michael Klein
Kane Lambert has been a bargain for the Tigers. Pic: Michael Klein

 

Fremantle's Michael Walters and Brisbane Lions forward Charlie Cameron are two rising superstars who are set to receive an imminent pay rise as part of a contract extension for their continued brilliant form.

Both earn in the vicinity of $650,000 a year, but could be firmly considered top-20 players in the competition by season's end, and worthy of an $800,000-plus salary.

Cameron, 26, earned rookie wages at Adelaide before he moved to the Lions and is set to earn a lucrative long-term extension.

West Coast captain Shannon Hurn, who hails from a sheepshearing farm in country South Australia, is another who has taken home a modest pay packet in relative terms for his ability as one of the game's best kicks and premiership skipper.

Collingwood's Brody Mihocek, and speedy Essendon pair Adam Saad and Andrew McGrath also deserve a rise this year.

No.1 pick McGrath is out of contract at the end of the year and is likely to command a $600,000-plus salary, which will see him jump into the top-100 next year.

 

Originally published as Who are footy's most underpaid stars?

Andrew McGrath has a big pay rise coming. Picture: Michael Klein
Andrew McGrath has a big pay rise coming. Picture: Michael Klein

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