Sam Tomkins has so far cost the Warriors an estimated $90,000 per game during his 18-month stint at the club.
It means, in terms of cost, he is possibly the most expensive player in the sport, ahead of Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis or Billy Slater.
The figure is a combination of his world-record transfer fee — paid to Wigan to secure his services in 2013 when he was still under contract at the Lancashire club — and his annual salary as one of the highest earners at Mt Smart.
The Warriors are believed to have paid Wigan around 700,000 ($1.56 million) to secure Tomkins' services. It remains a world record transfer fee for rugby league, although Wigan have since paid back 200,000 ($460,000) to facilitate Tomkins' premature release from his three-year Warriors contract.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Tomkins is also believed to be banking around $700,000 a season in salary with the Auckland club. When he left Super League in 2013, he was then the highest paid player in UK league. He isn't the best paid player in Australasia — the likes of Thurston, Cameron Smith, Slater, Inglis and Daly Cherry-Evans (from next season) earn considerably more — but his current cost-per-game figure would probably exceed any of that quintet.
The large outlay was the reason more clubs didn't pursue Tomkins when he first expressed interest in coming to the NRL. The Raiders, Dragons and particularly the Titans all showed initial interest but the Warriors didn't have any real competition for his signature when serious negotiations begun, with overall costs judged to be prohibitive.
The cost of Tomkins' services is impressive for the league world — but only a drop in the bucket in global sporting terms. According to Forbes magazine, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both earned in excess of $70 million last year ( before endorsements and sponsorship) and Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton banked more than $50 million in salary alone.
Other high profile athletes like LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Novak Djokovic and Wladmir Klitschko all earned between $20 million and $30 million in salary or prizemoney.
Tomkins had a solid first season in the NRL, with a marked improvement in the second half of 2014. He played in all 24 games and scored 13 tries but it was his ability to create play that caught the eye — the fingertip tip-ons and sleight of hand contributing to 12 try assists across the season. While he had some defensive slips, he also managed 14 linebreaks and 97 tackle busts.
His vision, organisation and communication have been sorely missed by the Warriors this year. Tui Lolohea has done well in the No1 jersey, but the 20-year-old is an NRL rookie still finding his feet.
Tomkins has played only four games this year. He played in the round two victory over Canberra, then lasted 51 minutes in the 29-16 win over Parramatta the following week. He left the field with a knee injury, later diagnosed as a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament. He played in the 24-20 defeat of Newcastle three weeks ago and was a late inclusion against the Titans last night.