General footy writing: Away strips make me want to look away

By Andrew Gigacz

It shouldn’t bother me but it does. On Friday night Hawthorn played away and wore a guernsey that was wrong on just too many levels. It was ugly – not just ugly to look at, but a representation of the ugliness that is modern footy marketing.

Of course the AFL will tell us that it’s required so that we can tell the teams apart, that it’s required more so these days because there are sixteen teams not twelve. You know, I know and the AFL knows that’s just crap. If you think about Hawthorn’s traditional jumper, front and back, you’ll understand that it couldn’t possibly be confused with Freo’s. Front: brown and gold vertical stripes versus green and red top quarters and a dark purple bottom half, divided by a white anchor. Nobody could possibly confuse them. Back: same brown and gold vertical stripes covered by a large white rectangle with the player’s number in black on it versus a purple base with a white number. Mistaken identity? Simply not possible.

Ironically, the back of Hawthorn’s Friday night monstrosity actually made it harder to tell the teams apart. Dark brown, white numbers with a white strip for the sponsor’s logo underneath. And Freo, dark purple, white numbers with a white strip for the sponsor’s logo underneath. Sound familiar? It would be hard to tell them apart close up let alone from two thousand miles away through a small TV screen.

I started watching footy on TV in about 1970. Saturday night replay, Sunday morning replay, World of Sport highlights. We didn’t get a colour telly until 1980 (for the Moscow Olympics). In all those years I would have seen North play Hawthorn, Hawthorn play Collingwood and Collingwood play North countless times. All vertical stripes, no sponsor’s logo until 1977, and I can’t recall one time when I couldn’t tell the teams apart. I watched the 1977 Grand Final between Collingwood and North Melbourne on black and white TV — twice, counting the replay. Not a problem. Collingwood’s black stripes were black and North’s blue stripes were a much lighter grey. With one side wearing dark shorts and the other light, there was simply no issue.

On Saturday we were subjected to more jumper high jinks, first at Kardinia Park and then at the aptly named Idiot Stadium. At Geelong, one of the Cats players was asked post-game what he thought of the Kangaroos’ powder-blue job. He gave a very diplomatic answer, citing the teams having similar colours and both having stripes. The (usual) blues of the two clubs are so different that they may as well be given different names – they’re about as different as orange is to red, if not more. And the stripes? Well the ninety-degree difference is more than enough to solve that problem.

At Docklands it was as confusing as it was ridiculous. This was St Kilda’s home game. If anyone needed to wear an away strip (which they didn’t), it was Essendon – which they did. Trouble is, Essendon’s away strip is the same as their home strip except the red stripe is wider – about as wide as St Kilda’s. So how did that little issue get solved? By getting St Kilda to wear THEIR away strip, with a huge ugly wide white stripe down the middle and the red and black little more than an afterthought. And as if to underscore how ridiculous the whole thing has become, Essendon wore the home-team black shorts and the Saints wore the away-team white shorts!

The AFL should just come out and say, yeah, we know these jumpers can look silly but it’s a huge chance for us to rake in some more dollars. Most of us already know that, so don’t bother with the charade, Demetriou et al. So eager are they for each and every marketing dollar, they’ve taken the strategy down to the smallest detail. Noticed the numbers on the players backs in the last couple of years? Look carefully and you’ll see a little AFL logo on each one. So now if you want to be the cool kid at school and keep up with the Joneses, you’ve even got to buy AFL-approved numbers.

My most prized footy possession is my Bulldogs beanie, hand-knitted by my wife to my own 1970s-era specifications. It’s got a couple of mistakes in it and maybe it doesn’t have the look of professionalism the AFL likes. But it does have a look that the AFL would know nothing about – the look of integrity.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. Well said Gigs. This is all the tip of the iceberg. In our lifetime I fear we will see the colours of our teams become less and less significant and I’m not sure I can understand the logic of all this. Surely the old white shorts and black shorts contrast would resolve any issue?

  2. The colours must be protected regardless of the configurations to avoid the laughable “Liverpool” example where their fans sang “Come on you Reds” as the players ponced in green!
    White was formerly a shunned jumper colour. Mums, it was assumed, steered their sons to the easily laundered Carlton and away from the “Napisan” Swans.
    Today the white “strips” are popular. They appeal particularly as autographable and collectible!
    BTW, I don’t mind the Saints’ variant as it is at least an extension of their original.

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    Totally agree with you Gigs.The jumper issue is a total fiasco- utterly ridiculous. And can you believe they are putting the Gold Coast team in red? The colour several teams already have in their jumper? So how many more ridiculous assortments will we have then? Some clubs are almost unrecognizeable now and wouldn’t you think the AFL would want the band to be distinct from other codes if they are seriously expanding?! The alternative designs and colours are an insult to fans.

  4. Dave Nadel says

    I agree, Gigs. I watched the Pies for years on dodgy black and white TV in my poverty stricken youth. Never once mistook them for the Kangaroos.

    The logic behind the “away” strip is that fans will buy them as souvenirs. I can’t imagine that any serious North fan would want to buy the Argentinian away strip that North wore against Collingwood and Geelong. Or for that matter some of the bizarre away strips that Brisbane, West Coast and Melbourne have worn in recent years.

    Coaches and club officials tell players and fans to “respect the club guernsey.” How do you do that when it is a clown suit?

  5. Steve Healy says

    The thing about clashing is the AFL becomes more strict on it every year.
    In 2007, the Saints wore their home jumper and the Bombers wore their widened sash one with red shorts. The Bulldogs’ white strip isn’t necessary, it doesn’t clash with any team.

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