Almanac Rugby League: On how to improve the greatest game of all

John Campbell has a thing about the corporatisation of footy, including the advertising which appears on the players’ gear. He expressed his feelings in this article from several years ago and so the examples he uses date from that time. His point, however, remains valid, perhaps even more so given the number of logos which appear on every jersey these days.



Artwork by John Campbell



When you’ve done life’s hard yards and made it into the grumpy years, you understand with cold and dispiriting certainty that there is no turning back the clock. But that doesn’t mean that in the face of crass, intolerable change, or ‘progress’ as the suits would wish to sell it, you should give up and fall down crying like an Italian soccer striker.


I’m a rugby league tragic from the dim and distant, a rusted-on South Sydney supporter who loves the game as much for its beauty and finesse as for its brutality and power. But there are some things that a man can no longer cop. They’re only petty issues, but they have been giving me the Edgar Britts for long enough to prompt a major whinge.


Starting at ground level, it occurred to me, while watching the Warriors on TV the other night, that there is now an epidemic of sox being worn around ankles. I’m used to Issac Luke doing it. Image is an important thing these days and I’m prepared to give some leeway to a bloke who can’t spell his own Christian name correctly but, as a winger fleet of foot, Alex Johnston should know better. How fast would he travel if he pulled them up?


As for the jersey (I’ve always preferred it to ‘guernsey’), whatever happened to sleeves? The spray-on outfit flatters the torso, Sam Kasiano excepted, but why do they have to be plastered with advertisements? It’s as ugly as it is demeaning and, if you can remember Paul Harragon playing for the Knights, it’s totally farcical. I mean, really, the Chief charging into a ruck with ‘Henny Penny’ emblazoned across his chest? Give me a break.


The designs are garish enough (the marketing genius who thought of the army camouflage look to ‘celebrate’ ANZAC Day should never be let loose anywhere near Spotlight again) but the constant changes in strip run counter to a fan’s deepest need to identify with his or her tribe. Which is to say, what are Penrith’s colours? Or the Warriors’, for that matter.


As for the refs, it’s like that old song by the Pogues, ‘two wives are allowed in the navy, but one’s too many for me’. The less said about them the better but, just in passing, at what point did they become the players’ best mates? They are quite properly addressed as ‘Sir’ (in the Northern Rivers Rugby League comp there is a female touchie who is rather endearingly appealed to as ‘Miss’), so why have they taken it upon themselves to call players by anything other than their number? To hear Matt Cecchin call to the Tigers’ prop , “You’re off-side, Aaron,” sounds like nothing more than a major suck-up, and a futile one at that. They will only ever be considered a necessary evil, so let’s encourage them to drop the faux intimacy.


My pet peeve, however, is the on-field warm up.


The first game I ever attended was Newtown v St George. My Dad took me. We arrived for the last twenty minutes or so of the Reserves. Both sides were coated with the dirt of Henson Park. The break between their departure and the emergence of the First Graders from the race below the King George V Memorial Grandstand was charged with electricity.


A tall, gangly bloke led the Dragons out. It was Norm Provan. His uniform glowed white. The number nine on his back glistened in the sun. That famous red V inspired awe. And look … there’s Johnny Raper … Reg Gasnier … the scary bald man, ‘Poppa’ Clay …


These days the players, with whom we are overly familiar because they have been working out in front of us, are already grubby and sweaty when they appear. Yesterday one of the Broncos took to the field with mud splattered on the back of his shorts. He looked like he’d shit himself. So much for mystique.


It’s like going to the theatre only to have that period of tingling anticipation before the curtain goes up blunted by watching the actors rehearse their scenes on stage. And even worse, as the players do their drills, you’re relentlessly bombarded with ear-splitting music and inane exhortations from the ratbag PR guy who seems to think that you’ve come along to hear his amped-up drivel.


Thank gawd for the footy that follows.


To read more of John Campbell’s rugby league pieces click here.

You can view more of John Campbell’s artwork here.



To return to the homepage, click HERE.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.




  1. In full agreement with you, John. As far as logos on the players’ gear is concerned, there seem to be so many sponsors craving space these days that jerseys end up looking like the number of medals on a North Korean general’s uniform – they’ve run out of room! And the rev-up PA announcers really give me the Edgar Britts – as if we’re there to listen to them! It’s even worse at the cricket, more so with one-dayers and T20 matches.

  2. Liam Hauser says

    Well said John. I’m in total agreement. And this is coming from someone under the age of 40.
    It’s hard to imagine that today’s jerseys (not guernseys) will be considered “retro” in another 20 or 30 years. The number of sponsors gets a bit much. I also find it staggering to see how many different jerseys the Panthers have. Indeed it is hard to know what their “real” colours are.
    I sometimes wonder if our disapproval of certain things comes down to personal choice(s), or if it’s a “different era” now and that we haven’t moved with the times. Perhaps a bit of both. I absolutely HATE blaring music and attempts by the MC to get the crowd all psyched up, at the footy or at white-ball cricket. I wish they’d just shut the hell up and let us enjoy the sporting fixture without the hype. It is NOT a disco! In general, I hate commercial trash, and can’t understand why anyone would get swept up in it.
    Whenever a player lingers in the ruck, I can’t stand it when the referee tells the ball-carrier “don’t play it on him”. I also wish the referees would never call out instructions to players. Why don’t the referees just penalise them if they infringe? And if there’s a melee (which nowadays looks stupid anyway with jersey grabbing, pushing and shoving), I can never understand why the referees merely tell the captains and the brawlers “Don’t take matters into your own hands. I won’t tolerate it. You need to calm down, or else you’ll have a stint in the (sin) bin.” What’s the point of this useless “lecture”? Is it really a warning? More like time-wasting from the referees. Time-wasting to treat injured players on the field is something else that grates on me more than enough.
    And as I’ve said previously, it’s pathetic to see how often the players high-five and mob each other over trivial things. I wonder if they’re overpaid and spoilt, in which case they’ll celebrate anything trivial!

  3. Could be worse.
    “The 10 Premier League clubs with betting company logos branding the shirts are: Aston Villa (W88), Bournemouth (M88), Burnley (LoveBet), Crystal Palace (ManBetX), Everton (SportPesa), Newcastle United (Fun88), Norwich City (Dafabet), Watford (, West Ham United (Betway) and Wolves (ManBetX).”
    Money doesn’t talk, it swears.

Leave a Comment