Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans has the biggest contract in NRL history.
Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans has the biggest contract in NRL history. Bradley Kanaris

Who tops NRL's rich list?

BEN Hunt's $6 million deal with St George-Illawarra will put him in elite company, up with the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cameron Smith, Jarryd Hayne and Billy Slater as rugby league's highest earners.

Here's where Hunt's deal rates among the 10 biggest NRL contracts of all time.

DALY CHERRY-EVANS

Sea Eagles - $10m over eight years

 

It was announced by the club as a "lifetime deal". Indeed it is.

After backflipping on a $4.4million deal to join the Gold Coast, Cherry-Evans signed a contract with Manly that holds the record for the longest deal in NRL history.

"As long as Daly is playing NRL football, he will be wearing the maroon and white of the Sea Eagles," Manly chief executive Joe Kelly said at the landmark announcement.

After signing in 2015 on an average of $1.25 million per season, Cherry-Evans is tied to Manly until the end of 2023.

And the Sea Eagles are committed for the full amount of his deal even if he retires due to chronic injury.

What makes things even more interesting is that his salary could soon increase. It's believed his deal has a percentage clause tied in with the NRL's salary cap - meaning when the cap rises, so too does his pay packet.

 

Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys.
Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys. JULIAN SMITH

JOHNATHAN THURSTON

Cowboys - $4.8 million over four years

 

In 2013 Thurston re-signed with North Queensland on a multi-million-dollar, four-year deal. Despite serious interest from Penrith, the champion half opted to remain in Townsville where he would claim the club's first premiership two years later.

This year he's off-contract again and wanting to play on in 2018, so he's expected to reclaim the mantle as the game's top earner.

With the salary cap set to increase next season, it is being speculated that Thurston could become the NRL's first $2 million man.

 

Kieran Foran during his ill-fated time with the Eels.
Kieran Foran during his ill-fated time with the Eels. DAN HIMBRECHTS

KIERAN FORAN

Eels - $4.8m over four years

 

The New Zealand five-eighth signed a two-year deal with an option in his favour for an additional two seasons valued at $1.2 million a year.

As history shows, Foran's time at Parramatta was short lived.

The Eels marquee man only lasted a few months in the blue and gold before asking for a release due to several personal issues.

 

Jarryd Hayne of the Gold Coast Titans.
Jarryd Hayne of the Gold Coast Titans. DAN PELED

JARRYD HAYNE

Titans - $2.4m over two years

 

It was just last year that the former NFL convert made his return to the code that first put him on the map.

Signing a $1.2 million deal that made him the biggest recruit in the Gold Coast's history, the fullback was expected to return to the Eels after leaving the NFL and a brief stint with the Fijian rugby team.

But Hayne claimed he was left waiting by his former club and eager to make an immediate return to the game, the Titans' offer was far too attractive to pass up.

 

 

Broncos halfback Ben Hunt, who is set to join the Dragons.
Broncos halfback Ben Hunt, who is set to join the Dragons. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

BEN HUNT

Dragons - $6m over six years

 

Only last week the Broncos half agreed to a five-year deal with an option in his favour for a sixth.

The deal is worth about $1 million a season, putting him among the NRL's top five earners based on both year-to-year salary and the overall contract value.

Neither club is making any announcement on the move with the NRL's 10-day cooling-off period still in effect, but Hunt is as good as gone from Brisbane.

While the former Kangaroos half will see out the year at Red Hill, his move to Wollongong in 2018 will make him the Dragons' marquee man.

 

Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith is believed to be earning about $1.5 million a year.
Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith is believed to be earning about $1.5 million a year. JULIAN SMITH

CAMERON SMITH

Storm - $4m over four years

 

In 2014 Smith made the call to be a one-club player for the Storm.

Regarded as the greatest hooker the game has seen and a future Immortal, Smith signed a four-year contract extension that expires at the end of 2018, when he'll be 35.

It was the toughest decision of his career. With Brisbane on the verge of luring him back north, Smith wasn't short of options.

As the skipper of his state and country, Smith is believed to be earning about $1.5 million a year when you include his sponsorships.

 

Robbie Farah in action for the Wests Tigers. He will play for Souths in 2017.
Robbie Farah in action for the Wests Tigers. He will play for Souths in 2017. BRENDAN ESPOSITO

ROBBIE FARAH

Tigers - $3m+ over four years

 

The actual value of this deal has been difficult to nail down as the contract was so heavily back-ended.

What we do know is the final year was worth $950,00 and the Tigers are paying $750,000 of it this season.

The contract was set to expire at the end of 2017 but after a very public falling out with coach Jason Taylor, Farah was released to join the Rabbitohs at the end of last season.

He will square off with Taylor and the Tigers in round one of 2017.

 

Billy Slater of the Melbourne Storm.
Billy Slater of the Melbourne Storm. TRACEY NEARMY

BILLY SLATER

Storm - $1.8m over two years

 

The superstar No.1 extended his Storm contract for another two years in 2015.

The deal ensured Slater would finish his career as a one-club man, although injury has been far from kind.

Slater is earning a reported $900,000 in his final season in the NRL, but has played just one game in the past 18 months after having to undergo successive season-ending shoulder reconstructions.

 

Cooper Cronk of the Storm.
Cooper Cronk of the Storm. JULIAN SMITH

COOPER CRONK

Storm - $1.7m over two years

 

The 2016 Dally M Medal and Golden Boot winner re-signed with the Storm last year after months of speculation he was Sydney-bound.

While there was no shortage of interest in the Test and Origin superstar, Cronk wanted to finish his career as a one-club man.

He was heavily linked with both St George- Illawarra and South Sydney but ultimately signed a deal worth about $850,000 a season to stay with the Storm.

 

Greg Inglis of the Rabbitohs.
Greg Inglis of the Rabbitohs. DEAN LEWINS

GREG INGLIS

Rabbitohs - $4m+ over five years

 

The brilliant fullback signed a five-year-deal with the Rabbitohs in 2012.

After leaving Melbourne following their infamous 2010 salary cap scandal, Inglis was on the verge of joining Brisbane in 2011 before a deal was stuck with the red and green.

He would later commit to the Rabbitohs long-term and is currently tied to the foundation club until the end of 2020.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

 

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck: Warriors - $2.4m over three years; Sam Burgess: Rabbitohs - $2.4m over three years; Will Hopoate: Eels - $1.6m over two years; Kalyn Ponga: Knights - $3m over five years; Chris Sandow: Eels - $2.2m over four years.

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