Over the next four days the Herald will reveal who we believe are the 20 highest-paid New Zealand sports people and look at how they make a living on and off the pitch. Alongside that we will also look at the highest-paid players in each of our major sports and how our sports stars compare to those from overseas. In the course of making this list we have talked to administrators, agents, athletes and those who cover them for a living. Unlike overseas, and in particular the US, sports salaries here are not widely known, so this is not an exact science, but a close approximation. None of these sporting heroes are going to challenge the Graeme Harts of this country anytime soon, but we think they're still doing pretty nicely.

16 Ross Taylor (cricket)

New Zealand Cricket's first $1 million man in the Indian Premier League, Taylor's earnings have shrunk a little in recent seasons with the money not flowing as freely in the Indian Leagues as it once was. But the ever-consistent Taylor is still one of the country's highest earners in sport.

Taylor receives a top tier contract with NZ cricket, estimated to be worth $195,000. When you throw match fees into the mix, he could clear more than $350,000 a year with the Black Caps. But it is in the Twenty20 leagues where he has made his riches. In 2011 Taylor was snapped up by the Rajasthan Royals for $1.32 million - the biggest pay day for a Kiwi cricketer. The following year he took up a contract with the Delhi Daredevils, worth about $1.1 million. But Taylor took a significant pay cut this year when he was not picked up in the first round of the IPL auction, and was later sold to the Daredevils for $390,000.


He also played in the Caribbean Premier League for Trinidad and Tobago for a contract said to be worth at least $100,000.

Taylor is a brand ambassador with Gunn & Moore international. The deal, which is highly incentivised, is believed to be worth about $80,000.

He owns three properties in Hamilton and one in Palmerston North.

17 Mark Hunt (UFC) - $890,000

Mark Hunt is New Zealand's biggest name involved in the world's fastest growing sport.

Hunt recently signed a new six-fight deal with UFC worth about US$350,000 ($445,000) per fight, win, lose or draw. Given the brutal nature of the sport, Hunt only fights twice a year bringing his annual income to about $890,000. He could earn a further US$500,000 if he challenges for the UFC heavyweight title, but it is very much a long shot for him to get that opportunity.

Hunt can also earn a US$50,000 bonus if he is awarded "fight of the night" honours, as he has done in four of his past six bouts.

Despite his high profile in the UFC world, Hunt has struggled to attract sponsorship dollars. Even his recent agreement with Sky Arena is geared more towards assisting him with promotion, rather than further lining his pockets. Hunt has a couple of low-level sponsors who cover his training camp costs, which can be as much as $70,000 per camp.


18 Daniel Vettori (cricket) $840,000

Former Black Caps skipper Daniel Vettori may no longer be on a national contract, but it has freed him up to chase big money contracts in the twilight of his career.

Over the past few seasons he has plied his trade in the IPL, Australia's Big Bash League and the Caribbean Cricket League.

The bulk of his income over the past year has come from his coaching role in the IPL, but as he is also still playing, he qualifies for the list. Vettori's contract with the Royal Challengers Bangalore is thought to be worth $550,000.

His Australian Big Bash League and Caribbean Premier League T20 contracts are estimated to be worth more than $100,000 each.

Vettori's signature look - his glasses - have also proved profitable for him as an ambassador for Specsavers.

Vettori owns a home in the upmarket Auckland suburb of St Heliers valued at $1.83 million, and a block of residential flats in Hamilton worth $1.05 million.

He owns further properties through his investment companies, and also owns shares in a civil engineering firm.

Vettori played the last of his 111 tests for New Zealand in July 2012, while his last ODI was against England at Cardiff in 2013.

19 Carl Hayman (rugby) $820,000

Former All Black prop Carl Hayman became one of the first high-profile New Zealand players to head offshore in the prime of his career when he joined the Newcastle Falcons after the 2007 World Cup.

At the time the $1 million a year deal made him the highest-paid rugby player in the world. Seven years on and Hayman continues to command top dollar from European clubs.

The 34-year-old is now with French side Toulon, where he reportedly earns $68,000/month, just under $820,000 a season. Hayman joined Toulon in late 2010, initially signing on for two seasons at $1.2 million a year. The move came as a blow to the NZRU, who believed they had put together a competitive offer to lure the tight-head prop back home ahead of the 2011 World Cup.

Hayman said at the time his decision came down to "financial and lifestyle" reasons.

20 James McDonald (jockey) $800,000

Rated one of the brightest talents in the saddle in world racing, young jockey James McDonald is cashing in across the Tasman. The 22-year-old claimed the 2013/14 Sydney jockeys' premiership in July when he notched up his 72nd win in the final meet on the Sydney racing calendar. It was only his second full season in Sydney.

With 305 career wins, McDonald's rider earnings amount to more than $28 million, with about $1.4 million of that going straight into his pockets. A big chunk - about $800,000 - of his career earnings have come in the past 12 months.

His big win of the season came in April when he claimed the Golden Slipper at Rosehill, taking home A$150,000 for his efforts. The youngster celebrated by buying a new BMW, and is now planning his next big purchase - an apartment on Sydney's Coogee Beach.

Next trending article: Who earns NZ's biggest pay packet?