A RECORD nine players earned more than $1 million last season as the rich got richer under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Six players were in the AFL's exclusive millionaires club in 2016, while the previous record was eight in 2012 when player incomes were inflated by the additional salary cap space initially afforded to expansion clubs Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.
The AFL released its official salary and TPP figures for 2017 on Thursday, revealing that two players earned more than $1.2 million.
Lance Franklin is understood to have been one of the competition's highest-paid players last season, with Tom Boyd, Scott Pendlebury, Nathan Fyfe and then Gold Coast teammates Gary Ablett and Tom Lynch widely believed within industry circles to have also earned seven-figure salaries.
It is likely some of 2017's millionaires are on contracts wherein their average yearly salary is less than $1 million, but their deals were front- or back-ended last season to top seven figures. Sources contacted by AFL.com.au identified Brisbane captain Dayne Beams and Essendon tall Michael Hurley as players that could fall in this category.
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin and teammate Dion Prestia would also have been among the AFL's top earners in 2017, although Dustin Martin won't top seven-figures until his new contract kicks in this season.
Stars such as GWS spearhead Jeremy Cameron, Adelaide captain Taylor Walker, North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein and Bomber Cale Hooker are also understood to have fallen short of the millionaires club.
Eleven players earned between $900,000 and $1 million last season, with one of them not playing a senior game – believed to have been West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui.
AFL listed player salaries across the years
* 1990-2010 figures only include players who played a senior game
Under the CBA introduced last year, the salary cap rose by 20 per cent, but total player payments increased by 13.24 per cent to $231.4 million and the average player salary rose by 14 per cent to $352,470.
Much of that increase was absorbed by the competition's elite. The number of players earning over $800,000 more than doubled, rising from 14 in 2016 to 29, while 139 of the competition's 707 senior-listed players earned more than $500,000, up 46.3 per cent on 2016's figure (95).
It was not until 2000 that a player's salary first topped $500,000.
The number of lower salary earners also shrank markedly. Players earning $100,000 or less fell by 54 per cent (38, down from 70 in 2016) and those earning $200,000 or less fell by 25 per cent (191, down from 255).
There was little movement, however, among the competition's middle class.
Despite the increased salary cap, more than half of the AFL's players continued to earn between $200,000 and $500,000 – 377 players fell within this bracket in 2017, marginally up from 368 in 2016.
Remarkably, the number of players earning between $300,000 and $500,000 remained exactly the same – 237.