This article reviews current salaries of Melbourne Rebels players in Super Rugby.
Individual salaries are private contracts that are seldom made public by the Melbourne franchise or Rugby Australia (RA).
However, recent years have seen several renegotiations of salary levels between RA, the Australian franchises, and the players union. That has made player earnings a lot clearer.
How Do Rebels Players Get Paid?
Before we consider the numbers, let’s take a look at how the players are paid. It’s not just through club wages.
Salaries can be made up of several income streams (not all players benefit from all streams):
- Monthly salary from the club
- Brand deals and advertising
- Top-ups from Rugby Australia for Wallabies
- Top-ups from approved third party donors
Brand deals and advertising
Brand deals can be worth very different amounts across players. Image rights may be paid by third parties who want to use player photos in their advertising.
This varies from national brands (e.g. sports and retail) to local firms.
If you travel through the hometowns of Rebels players, you’ll probably see them in local advertising. Of course, this isn’t going to be for big dollars.
Who pays the players?
Melbourne Rebels pays monthly salaries to their Super Rugby squad and the development squad.
Players in the Wallabies squad are paid match fees per test.
Rugby Australia also provides top-up contracts to a select number of Australian players to compete with potential overseas contracts.
Marika Koroibete had a significant top-up while at the Rebels (we’ll review the figures in a later section). But it still wasn’t enough to keep him from moving to Japan.
Rugby Australia (RA) also allows third parties to fund top-ups to star players. RA must be informed of sponsorships and give approval.
How Have Covid Restrictions Impacted Salaries?
The 2020/21 domestic season was shortened due to Covid restrictions.
Match attendances were also curtailed and the drop in gate receipts hit franchise incomes. TV revenue was also reduced due to fewer matches.
The finances of Rugby Australia weren’t helped by having to pay off their legal settlement to Israel Folau.
The association that represents Rebels players along with the other Australian franchises entered into protracted negotiations with Rugby Australia.
In the first negotiated deal in 2020, players took an average pay cut of sixty percent. This was weighted towards the higher earners who took a bigger cut.
Later that year, the second deal involved a 30% pay cut across the board.
These cuts were eventually lifted – first for Wallabies players, and a few months later for all Super Rugby players.
Interestingly, the figures that came out from these negotiations give us a good idea of how much players are paid in normal times.
What Is The Average Salary Of A Melbourne Rebels Player?
The average salaries of Rebels players are determined in part by the Salary Cap imposed on all Australian franchises in Super Rugby.
The Salary Cap is negotiated by Rugby Australia, the Australian players union, and the franchises. The current cap is A$5.5 million.
With over forty Super Rugby players in the Rebels squad, we could calculate the current average salary as under A$130K. But this is misleading.
Young players on their first international contract earn well below that average. This means that the senior players earn above the amount.
The top-ups for playing for the Wallabies are also not included in the salary cap.
How much do Melbourne Rebels players earn?
Senior Rebels players who play for the Wallabies earn about A$200K per year from the franchise and top-ups from Rugby Australia.
Senior players who aren’t current internationals earn between A$80-A$130K.
Young players on their first pro contract earn about A$40-A$50K.
As I mentioned in an earlier section, the well-known senior players can also garner endorsements and image licensing from third-party brands.
That can top up annual earnings by ten to forty thousand dollars.
Who Are The Highest Paid Rebels Players?
The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2020 that the four highest-earning players in Australia were Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale, Matt Toomua, and Dane Haylett-Petty.
The unfortunate Haylett-Petty had to retire from the sport in 2021. Matt Toomua is still on the Rebels roster.
Toomua and fellow Wallabies star Reece Hodge are the highest-paid Rebels players.
Their total salaries are reportedly at least $200K.
Marike Koroibete was reportedly on a package deal of $500K per year at the Rebels, with the bulk of the money coming from a Rugby Australia top-up contract.
However, this couldn’t match the reported offer of $1M per year from a Japanese club.
Higher than average salaries
A European sporting agency publishes statistics for which positions earn the most in the England Premiership, the French Top 14, and the URC (clubs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and South Africa).
I haven’t seen a similar list for Super Rugby, but I expect a similar valuation by Australian franchises.
- #1 outhalf
- #2 fullback
- #3 locks
- #4 tight head prop
- #5 scrumhalf
- #6 centres
- #7 wings
- #8 number eight
- #9 flankers
- #10 loose head prop
- #11 hooker
Nobody will be surprised that the number 10 is the most valued. As Matt Toomua is in the latter stages of his career, there will be some downward pressure in future contract negotiations.
Reese Hodge is a highly experienced Wallaby fullback, and will also be at the top end of the Melbourne salary scale.
Let’s take a quick look at flankers like Michael Wells and Rob Leota.
In recent years, both were in similar situations. Wells was at Waratahs, but like Leota, wasn’t getting picked for the Wallabies.
The Waratahs offered Wells a base-level deal i.e. below the average at their franchise. It was probably at the $80K mark.
Leota was considering moving to a French Division 2 club, which would pay more than his Rebels contract.
Wells left the Waratahs to join the Rebels, and Leota changed his mind about moving to France. Both had fine seasons with the Rebels and were now in the mix for international call-up.
As flankers, their salaries would tend to be below the general average. That’s usually because elite clubs keep plenty of flankers on their roster to cope with injury.
We would expect them to be on the $100K mark at the Rebels, which is a mid-range salary.
If they get regular caps for the Wallabies, their next contract negotiations should be at almost double that level.
How Much Do Rebels Players Get For Playing For The Wallabies?
Check out our article on how much Australian rugby players earn.
I’ll summarize here to say that match fees are about €10K and the Wallabies play about 12 times a year.
That tallies up to a decent $120K for regular Wallabies. There are also significant win bonuses on offer.
Other Super Rugby Franchises
Interested in other Australian franchises? Due to the salary cap, the average wages tend to be similar. However, the top earners and their packages are very different.
Check out these articles:
- How much do Brumbies rugby players make?
- How much do Force rugby players make?
- How much do Reds rugby players make?
- How much do Waratahs rugby players makes?
New Zealand franchises
And what about the neighbors? Check out these articles: