Cast your mind back if you will, to a time where mullets, sideburns, and moustaches were the height of fashion, to where the thought of Richmond playing finals football was an actual possibility, and to where clubs, before the introduction of colour television wore the same colours every week; the ones they wanted to.
In the mid-1970s, the then VFL dictated to certain clubs that because of new colour technology in its TV broadcasts, their guernsey designs, and in some cases even colours, had to be altered.
It was then that Melbourne switched from navy to royal blue, Footscray’s red and white bands were altered and Fitzroy’s maroon and blue, with a white monogram, became dark red, blue, with a gold ‘FFC’ monogram.
The damage other clubs faced was limited to just the changing of shorts colours – Essendon and Richmond both changed from red and yellow shorts respectively to the plain black or white.
Returning to today the AFL seems to have taken the use of clash and alternate strips to a whole new, unnecessary level, amidst their seeming obsession over genuine and perceived jumper clashes.
While every fan may not feel the same, surely each club’s colours are treasured by their supporters, and to see them bastardised for the sake of a non-existent clash is a trend that needs to be curtailed.
Using a few matches played in Round 18 as an example, Carlton hosted Richmond at the MCG, both sides wearing a predominantly dark strip with white numbers. No problem, supposedly. On the other hand, the Western Bulldogs were made to wear their white strip against St Kilda, even though their original strip clashed less with the Saints jumper than the equivalent clash in the Blues/Tigers match played the previous night.
While it may be seen as a marketing tool for clubs in terms of potential merchandise sales to have an alternate strip, the goodwill between clubs and fans can be severely tested if a sub-standard design takes the field in an actual AFL match.
Carlton’s light blue and Essendon’s new grey ‘heritage’ strip are examples of clubs having to alter their original colours in order to satisfy the AFL’s clash jumper agenda.
Even the use of white clash strips seems at the point of ridiculousness. While it is acceptable for clubs like St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Sydney and Port Adelaide to have a mostly white clash strip, given it is a club colour, it is utterly insane to see Hawthorn, Adealaide and Brisbane wearing a white-based jumper when they have yellow as part of their club colours.
Two perfect example of how the jumper clash should work is Collingwood and North Melbourne. Simply switching the colour combination while retaining their traditional stripes works wonders; both are easily identifiable and clearly represented.
Mind you, it took time and many failed attempts for North Melboune to find the right answer.
When it comes to guernseys, clubs need to stop trying to re-invent the wheel. A clubs jumper design is sacred to many. The differing concoctions just prove the original, in so many cases, is simply the best.
Western Bulldogs ditching its ‘yawning cat’ logo off the front of its guernsey, and subsequent return of their traditional design, has been seen as a step in the right direction, whereas the Brisbane Lions’ recent alteration of the classic Fitzroy Lion has seen much anger and heated debate amongst old Fitzroy fans, wanting the decision reversed.
The AFL needs to let clubs wear their original preferred jumpers as often as possible, and if a clash arises, let them wear a design that at least preserves their own club colours.