THE NRL likes to boast of seven premiers in eight years but closer analysis of the competition results since 1998 - when the salary cap began to be enforced rigorously - belies the spread and confirms money still rules rugby league. Brisbane - 20.3 Million Roosters - 15.19 million Melbourne - 13.2 million Newcastle - 12.76 million Paramatta - 11.5 million Dragons - 15.03 million Bulldogs - 12.55 million sharks - 9.25 million Canberra - 11.09 million Penrith - 9.3 million Warriors - 9.8 million MANLY - 8.6 MILLION wests tigers - 9.7 million Cowboys - 10.68 million Souths - 9.7 million Squeezing 25 players under the cap of $3.366million might force chief executives to count on fingers and toes, but that's not all there is to the equation. Money may not necessarily be splashed on players' contracts but it can add to the lustre of a club and help it gain and maintain a talented playing roster. Money for training complexes, coaches, junior development squads and nutritionists is outside cap auditor Ian Schubert's range. Most clubs boast revenue of at least three times the salary cap; Brisbane pull in almost six times the cap in a year. A Herald analysis, awarding points for minor premiership standings since 1998, has the Broncos and Roosters as the two standout clubs of the modern era, with ratings of 101 and 100 respectively. The Broncos have won two grand finals - the only double winners since the NRL began - while the Roosters have made four grand finals in eight years. Surprise, surprise, Brisbane are unchallenged as the game's wealthiest club, with Lachlan Murdoch their No.1 ticketholder, News Ltd the majority shareholder and their finances almost guaranteed by being a one-city team. The Roosters, backed by multimillionaire businessman and club chairman, Nick Politis, are hard on the Broncos' heels. The Storm may have made few waves in Melbourne but their on-field performance since 1998 has been remarkably consistent, with the club regularly finishing the season in a handy position and claiming a title in 1999. They rank slightly ahead of Newcastle, who have had the game's best player, Andrew Johns, albeit with some lengthy injury-forced lay-offs. The two clubs also have similar revenue streams, which match their football rankings. Parramatta and St George Illawarra, strong brands backed by wealthy leagues clubs, are in fifth and sixth place - a reflection both of their healthy finances and a failure to deliver results to match the outstanding playing rosters they've maintained in this period. The Bulldogs, with one title and a grand final appearance, would rank higher but for the salary cap debacle that sent them from first to last in 2002. Then come the Sharks and the Raiders, who have performed consistently in home-and-away competition yet failed at the business end. Along with the Sea Eagles and the Rabbitohs, the Sharks and the Raiders are the only clubs not to appear in a grand final in the NRL era. Souths, something of a special case, with two years out of the competition, run a predictable last. But it's the two outfits above them that should give the Rabbitohs most hope - and the NRL cause to believe in the power of the salary cap to level the field. The records of Wests Tigers (results for the separate clubs, Western Suburbs and Balmain have been averaged for 1998 and 1999) and the Cowboys are, mostly, undistinguished since the NRL began. But last season proved the doubters wrong, with the sides defying the long-term trend and making their first grand final. Souths chief executive Shane Richardson, a veteran of the Sharks, Panthers and British club Hull, said money was "absolutely important" in angling for success. "Souths have always had $3.9 million to spend on players. It's not that, it's the money we can spend off the field - outside the salary cap - that makes you competitive. And that's what we'll be able to do now," he argued, pointing to the privatisation of the football club by Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court. "What we've got to do is rebuild our image as a club so that people are going to be attracted to us and it starts with training, it starts with rehabilitation [facilities] and it starts with opportunities we can create for them." Money talks but - as the failed Souths pitches for Braith Anasta, Matt Orford and Steve Bell proved - not every player listens to what it says. "For us to attract a marquee player we've probably got to pay overs for them; that's not a question at the moment," Richardson said. "What we don't want to do is pay overs for the young players we've got. It's a short-term headache for a long-term gain." Player manager Wayne Beavis said the simple rule was that good players gravitated to stronger clubs. While Beavis said "not too many players want to drop money", the decision on where to play often depended on factors outside the salary cap. "The clubs are not salary-capped in terms of the staff they can have, the front office, the amenities," he said. "Predominantly, what comes first is the coaching and the football side - where they can go and where they think they're a chance of winning a comp, which is what every player wants." Even with the same amount of money to spend on their top 25 players, clubs can struggle to overcome failure. But, citing the Cowboys and Tigers as examples, Beavis said success could come with the right sort of management. First, you've got to take the medicine. "If you're crook and you don't go to the doctors, you don't get better," he said. Then, if you "build, nurture, and hose the garden", a grand final is not out of the question.