Names on jumpers: no need

Call me a rusted on, Bartlettesque barnacle on the traditions of the game, but the addition of names to the back of players’ jumpers is a bad idea. I know it is only a trial for this weekend, but I think it is a real chance to become a regular thing. I have heard the rhetoric: it will make our game more accessible for newcomers and clubs will make valuable merchandising dollars. Forget the accessibility argument, as is increasingly the case with decisions made on the modern game, it is all about the money.

I mean really, how is names on the back of jumpers going to attract more fans to the game? You will either like the game or you will not. The decoration on the back of a uniform is merely cosmetic. I love Test Cricket, and all the players wear in that game is plain white clothes. No colours, no names, not even any numbers. The game has enough charm and substance to hold my affections, it does not need window dressing. Conversely, there are a plethora of sports out there that have failed to capture my affection despite the fact that players have their names on their backs. If the game is good, people will be attracted to it. And believe me, our game is good. I am attracted to it.

Obviously the addition of names onto the back of jumpers will have no effect on the actual game itself. Players will still run, mark, kick and handball like they have for all the years before them. So what am I riled up about? Well, there are small nuances of our game that will be lost if we end up with names plastered on jumpers.

There are few better insults from the crowd than “you’re a dog number 12!” The punch here is not being referred to as being of the canine species, the punch is the indignation of an opposition supporter not even knowing your name. You are so insignificant on that fan’s radar that they do not even know who you are. Take that number 12. This sort of vitriol is spat at players all over Australia and at all levels, every weekend of the footy season. It is a pleasant link between local footy and AFL footy. And I like it.

One of the great joys of being a kid watching the footy is studying the game endlessly: pouring over Footy Records in the car or train on the way home from games, watching games on TV, collecting footy cards and stickers, and talking amongst your mates in the schoolyard. This is how you learned the game, memorising the numbers of players who you idolised and despised on weekends. This knowledge was currency in the schoolyard. It gave you cred.

As an adult, there is still a deep satisfaction at knowing who’s who on the football field. You feel knowledgeable, worthwhile, maybe even prestigious. A friend asks, “who’s number 17?” and you confidently reply “Oh, that’s Jake Melksham, insert obscure fact here”. With names printed on the back of jumpers, anyone with reasonable eyesight will already know who number 17 is and they might never discover that Jakey Melksham had seven inside 50s in the 2009 TAC Cup Grand Final and was voted best afield. Believe me, the world will be a poorer place. It is like a pub conversation these days. You might ask, “How many games did Tim Darcy play?” In the past, this could result in a good five to ten minute discussion about Darcy’s career, the big games he played, and that sometimes forgotten stint at Essendon. Now, someone whips out their smartphone, answers the question and we all sit there staring at our beers wondering what we are doing with our lives. This is not a good result.

Names on the back of AFL jumpers is a bad idea. Of course the actual game itself will not change; footy will still be great and I will still hate Collingwood, but we will lose a few more of our coveted nuances, and we are already losing too many of them.

About Ged McMahon

Ged McMahon has been a Bombers fan for as long as he can remember. With a Grandpa who grew up just a spiralling torpedo punt from Windy Hill he didn't have much choice. When his junior football career resulted in almost as many possessions as games he eventually had to bite the bullet and give up his dream of captaining the Bombers to a Premiership. So his weekly footy fix became confined to the stands. He yearns for the next Premiership.


  1. Ged- well argued. Keep our game unique. It is irrelevant if every other sport on the planet labels the participants. If you’re interested, you’ll work out who’s who.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    If it is a”trial”, how will it be independently judged as successful or otherwise ?

    Oh, silly me

  3. Well said Swish (and Ged)

    The AFL never ‘trials’ anything. It just softens the ground for staggered implementation.

    When did Docklands become so insecure about the quality of its ‘product’? Or is it to ensure that we’re not talking about variable pricing and pissweak crowds for a week or so?

  4. It’s a typical officialdom lie – we are going to introduce names because it’s good for the fans is similar to we are going to introduce electronic power meters because it’s good for the customers. Balls. In both cases they were introduced because it improves the organisation’s bottom line.

    Just don’t tell us lies, AFL. We are big enough to accept that you are doing it for the cash.

  5. mandyjohnson says

    16 minutes after I read this, Richmond emailed to try to sell me one. “Limited edition”! Yeah, right.

  6. Neil Anderson says

    It might have been handy to have names on the backs for Dwayne Russell calling up in Canberra last Saturday.
    He kept calling Shaun Higgins Jack Macrae which prompted him to say what a star of the future he was going to be. They look nothing like each other but to be fair to Dwayne, they were both getting a lot of the ball.
    I’ll be first to say it. They’re going to have to use a smaller font when they print Giansiracusa on the Bulldog No. 13 jumper.

  7. Apparently Gia’s full name will make it. I think I saw a picture of it yesterday. But Lewis Roberts-Thomson will have to deal with “LRT”. The Age is reporting that Hoskin-Elliott from GWS will be the longest.

  8. Hoskin-Elliot won’t be the longest.

    Chris Judd is likely to return on Sunday, and he’ll be carrying the names of every other Carlton player on his back.


    … I’ll show myself out.

  9. Pounder Lounder says

    Great article Gedda. Just the other week watching the tiges a mate asked who’s #24 was. I instinctively said Benny Griffiths, can kick it a mile, was a forward in the Under 18’s but we’ve tried him in defence but I think he’s a forward.

  10. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I like the idea it will help re rookies and players from teams you don’t follow and it will help commentators and as Neil has alluded to above I hate it when they are getting players mixed up and consistently wrong . As for mechandise wise , easy do the same thing re channel 9 cricket crap ignore it . The afl as we all no makes a lot of stuff ups this in my humble opinion is not 1 of them

  11. Ben Footner says

    I like it personally. Reckon it’s great, particularly as an act of outreach to those who a still learning or being introduced to our great game.

  12. Pounder Lounder says

    Hey Malcolm, you do realize the AFL is only doing this to gouge more money out of families. You won’t be able to read the names from 20 metres away. The game will stay the same pace so the bulk of the commentary mistakes will remain. The AFL would confiscate peoples wallets at the turnstiles if they could. This is only about money money money.

  13. G’day Ged. I notice in recent Sheffield Shield games players have their names on their whites. Any opinions on that?


  14. Yeah I think Sheffield Shield has had names and numbers for a while now. Same in County Cricket. I don’t really like it. Would be truly horrified if it was introduced to Test Cricket. But I don’t mind it in One Day Cricket. I can’t explain my logic, it’s just the way I feel.

  15. daniel flesch says

    Isn’t this silly idea , whoops , i mean trial (sic) about the tv audience and little else ? I don’t think parents whose kids have still seviceable jumpers will rush out to buy the new name-carrying ones. They’ll wait till the kids have either worn their existing jumpers out or grown out of them. Then they would be buying new ones anyway.

  16. Malcolm Ashwood says

    The idea will help commentators with there binoculars as I said I like the idea it’s not doing any harm in a watching sense of the game . The sensible thing would be to have the name easily removed as playets move clubs, Ablett , Franklin etc as we no that won’t happen

  17. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I noticed young K-Harris from Melbourne.

    I wonder what Simon M-Connell, Rochford D-Meares or Trent O-Allen would have thought?

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