Travis Cloke should join the back of the queue if he wants to be paid $1m a season.
Photo: Getty Images
Travis Cloke wants $1m a season. Here are six other players who are more deserving of that sort of salary.
1. Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
Why he's worth it: He's the best player on Collingwood's list, arguably the top midfielder in the AFL and a sure thing to win the Brownlow at least once in his career. Pendlebury's great strength is in his poise and decision-making, his ability to read the play and his disposal, which is almost always to advantage. Add in his obvious leadership potential and the fact that his best years are in front of him and you have a million-dollar midfielder if ever there was one. The fact that he keeps it low-key off the field and treats football like a profession (compare his contract negotiations this year with the Cloke sideshow) and his value keeps going north.
2. Nic Naitanui (West Coast)
Why he's worth it: He's still green but Naitanui is already a marketing department's dream come true. In addition to being a one-man merchandise stall he is also a gun footballer. His freakish athletic potential, his super-soft taps and his ability to rove his own ruckwork suggests he could revolutionise what clubs look for in big men. Even at 22 years of age it's obvious he's going to be one of the most damaging ruck-rover-forwards around. And his value extends way off the field – imagine the uptick in memberships and merchandise sales a club like North Melbourne or the Bulldogs might experience if they grabbed this guy.
3. Buddy Franklin (Hawthorn)
Why he's worth it: If you think the constant Cloke speculation is unbearable just wait until Buddy nears free agency. His contract comes up for renewal next year and no matter where he signs it's an ironclad guarantee that he will be earning a cool million or more. And he's worth every penny. Even in a season marred by inconsistent form and injury he's still leading the Coleman medal count, and he's one of the few players that every club would give their favourite son for. He's just as valuable off the field too, and in the right hands there's no telling how successful the 'Buddy brand' could be.
4. Joel Selwood (Geelong)
Why he's worth it: Hard nut. Tough as nails. Hard as a cat's head. We've heard it all. There isn't a player in the league more committed to winning the inside footy than Selwood, and it shows in the many bumps, bruises and concussions he collects along the way. He's a born leader who sets the example for his teammates by putting his body on the line time and again, not unlike Saints skipper Nick Riewoldt (who is reportedly earning somewhere near the magic million already). Plus, Selwood is usually good for two or three free kicks a game, which is an added bonus on top of the contested possessions he racks up.
5. Dean Cox (West Coast)
Why he's worth it: Okay, so Coxy's a bit long in the tooth these days, but he's still pound-for-pound the best ruckman in the league. At age 30 he has perfected the art of rucking - he's a workhorse who gets the taps, drifts across half-back to pick off intercept marks, links up on the wing and kicks a goal while resting up forward. What more can he add to his game? Cox is a shoo-in for All Australian this year (his sixth guernsey in all*) and though he'll probably never hit the million-dollar mark, he deserves the cash more than most.
*Only Paul Roos, Nathan Buckley, Wayne Carey, Craig Bradley, Mark Ricciuto and Robert Harvey have earned more AA selections.
6. Steve Johnson (Geelong)
Why he's worth it: Because he's Stevie J, that's why. Need more? He's also a fan favourite and a preternaturally gifted footballer who does things almost no one else would think to do, let alone actually execute. He is the game's best showman and a budding tactical mind, a left-brained innovator who is changing the way Geelong's forwards kick for goal. He's a monty to be a senior coach if he chooses to follow that path after retirement; and who knows, he could be a genius. When was the last time anyone said Travis Cloke could be a genius? We rest our case.
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