Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich became the first WA-based million-dollar-a-year player in 2012, with a contractual quirk taking him to a salary of about $1.2m.
The West Australian understands that the Dockers, who signed Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands on lucrative four-year deals within a year of each other in 2009 and 2010, used the veterans list to offload a chunk of Pavlich's contract in a single season, with the aim of keeping salary cap space in future years to retain their younger players and also target free agents from rival clubs. AFL figures have indicated that the league had eight players who made $1 million or more on lists last year.
Carlton's Chris Judd, whose contentious ambassadorship with Visy was a key part of the financial deal that saw him shift from West Coast at the end of 2007, was thought to be one.
Gold Coast's Gary Ablett is another after taking the biggest contract in football history to shift from Geelong to the Suns at the end of the 2010 season.
Greater Western Sydney, who have "front-ended" several lucrative contracts to free up future salary cap space so they can retain their emerging young stars, may have had as many as three, with Phil Davis, Tom Scully and Callan Ward all on big deals.
The Giants, despite winning just two games last year, were thought to be the second-highest paying club in the AFL in 2012 because of the front-ended deals.
Sydney, the premiers and the recipients of a controversial 9.8 per cent cost-of-living allowance which tops up their salary cap, were believed to be the highest-paying club with total player payments of $10.7 million.
The Dockers were third with TPP spending of about $10 million. Cash-strapped trio Port Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne paid their players the least - about $8.9 million - while the other dozen clubs, including West Coast, are in a tightly-knit bunch spending about $9.5 million on players.
Fremantle had just two veterans on their list last year - Pavlich and the moderately-paid Antoni Grover, but spent more than any other AFL club on veterans payments.
Pavlich signed a new four-year deal thought to be worth more than $3.2 million in September 2010, just nine months after ruckman Sandilands had inked a similar four-year deal to stay with the Dockers.
The key to Fremantle being able to do both of those contracts, and still have money for a $2.4 million four-year deal for David Mundy which followed soon after, was the use of the veterans list to be able to pay a significant amount of money exempt from the salary cap.
The highly-paid Sandilands becomes a veteran this year as well, making 2012 the key year in the Pavlich contract.He is expected to earn considerably less this year.
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