Andrew Heathcote Rich Lists editor

Andrew is BRW's Rich lists editor and is responsible for the Rich 200 and Young Rich flagship issues. He also reports on matters relating to wealth and investment for BRW and The Australian Financial Review.

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Nine cricketers make top sports earners list

Published 13 December 2012 00:50, Updated 17 December 2012 11:26

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Nine cricketers make top sports earners list

Test cricket captain Michael Clarke, pictured here with Ricky Ponting (left), joins the top five sports earners this year and in doing so becomes Australia’s best paid cricketer. Photo: Cameron Spencer

After reaching the top of the BRW Top 50 Sports Earners list last year, Andrew Bogut is still standing tall in 2012. The US-based basketball player has the enviable title of the biggest earner in Australian sports.

This is the 10th year BRW has complied a Top Sports Earners list and the make-up of the list has changed considerably. The only member of the top 10 on the 2003 list to qualify in 2012 is golfer Adam Scott.

Scott is the big mover this year. He is up from ninth in 2011 to third this year as a result of an estimated gross salary of $10.5 million.

A marketer’s dream, the handsome golfer has a glamorous lifestyle and a raft of lucrative endorsement deals from luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Rolex. Scott’s value to sponsors has risen this year because of his improved performance on the golf course.

Scott is ranked fifth in the world and narrowly missed a win in the British Open this year.

Greg Norman was the top sports earner in 2003 with an estimated $20.3 million in gross earnings. Norman’s ability to leverage his success on the golf course to a range of other business ventures (such as golf course design, property, clothing and wine) is legendary and is yet to be matched by today’s best athletes.

Norman’s fortune was adjudged as $235 million on this year’s BRW Rich 200. While his wealth has been falling in recent years due in part to a property market slump in the US and some costly divorces, Norman remains a big earner. But the infrequency with which Norman plays professional golf makes him ineligible for this list.

Second this year is formula one driver Mark Webber. Another good year for Webber in the high-achieving Red Bull Racing team has ensured he stays near the top of the list. He rises from third last year.

Casey Stoner falls from second in 2011 to fourth. Stoner has retired from MotoGP, a sport in which he has won two world titles.

Had Stoner stayed on for another year, he would have taken top spot on the list next year. Reports suggest that Stoner was offered as much as $15 million from Honda to race on in 2013.

Bogut and the others near the top are unlikely to earn more than $15 million next year, so Stoner’s decision to retire has almost certainly cost him the title of Australia’s best paid sportsperson.

Test cricket captain Michael Clarke joins the top five this year and in doing so becomes Australia’s best paid cricketer. All-rounder Shane Watson had that title last year (he falls to ninth this year with $4.5 million) but a boost to Clarke’s earnings has meant Clarke has become the first cricketer to reach the top five on the Top 50 Sports Earners.

The main reason Clarke’s income rose significantly this year was his decision to join many of his Australian teammates in the Indian Premier League. Clarke’s deal in India was not disclosed as he avoided that competition’s high-profile auction process but it is believed to have been worth about $1 million.

Nine cricketers make this year’s list and their steady ascension is one of the biggest changes to the Top Sports earners since its inception in 2003.

Salaries are inordinately complex in cricket. Many sports, particularly US-based sports, provide detailed information about salaries and prize money. Cricket doesn’t, at least not in this country.

Cricketers can make money from a wide variety of sources. Seventeen players are contracted by Cricket Australia. They receive a base contract and match payments. The best among them also receive a share of Cricket Australia’s marketing revenue for their appearances in commercials and endorsements with major sponsors such as Vodafone.

Cricketers are also entitled to salaries from their state teams and the introduction of the domestic Big Bash and international champions’ leagues has provided further sources of income. Apart from their own personal sponsorship arrangements, many cricketers choose to take short-term contracts in India.

The best paid Australian in the Indian Premier League is David Hussey who has a $US1.4 million deal.

David Warner’s ability to excel at all three forms of the game has ensured he joins the list this year with an estimated $3.2 million in gross earnings. Should Warner, 26, remain a solid performer in the Test, one day international and T20 sides, conceivably he could earn more than $40 million over the next 10 years.

Four Australian Rules footballers qualify for the Top 50 Sports earners this year. The richest of them is Gold Coast Suns player Gary Ablett ($2 million) who along with Carlton’s Chris Judd ($1.2 million) is one of the game’s greats.

Tom Scully makes the list with $1.8 million this year. He is yet to prove himself as a top player but was signed by expansion club Greater Western Sydney, which was granted a generous salary cap concession by the Australian Football League to assist in its development.

Scully’s former teammate Israel Folau ($1.5 million) also makes it despite never achieving success as an Australian rules footballer. The former rugby league star was recruited by the AFL for his marketing draw-power but quit the sport at the end of this season and has signed with rugby union team the NSW Waratahs.

Another multi-talented sportsman, basketballer Matt Nielsen, received publicity this year when Australian rules player Scott Pendlebury suggested he would make a perfect AFL ruckman.

But Russia-based Nielsen already makes an estimated $1.5 million playing in basketball’s Euroleague and at 34 is unlikely to consider alternative offers.

Ten years ago the wealthiest basketballer on the list was a woman – Lauren Jackson. She still commands big money playing around the world but had a quiet year professionally in 2012, in preparation for the London Olympics.

Two women qualify this year. Tennis player Samantha Stosur ($2.5 million) returns and showjumper Edwina Tops-Alexander ($1.5 million) debuts.

This is the first time an equestrian has made the Top 50 Sports Earners. Tops-Alexander competes on the ultra-exclusive Global Champions Tour and has a modelling/endorsement deal with Gucci.

Other unusual sports to feature over the past 10 years include poker (Joe Hachem in 2005) and snooker (Neil Robertson in 2010).

Soccer, golf and now cricket typically dominate the Top 50 Sports Earners. These three sports account for more than half (28) of this year’s list.

Second place-getter on the inaugural list, Harry Kewell, departs in 2012. He has spent most of the year on the sidelines after finishing a stint with Melbourne Victory.

Former English premier League player Vince Grella also misses out this year but Adam Federici debuts, in a sign of generational change in top-level soccer.

Older people aren’t excluded from making millions in sport. Golfer Peter Senior qualifies as a result of his success on the over-50s US Seniors tour and his Australian Open win.

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