xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Stick it up your jumper!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Stick it up your jumper!

For well over 100 years teams in the VFL/AFL played against each other wearing their traditional football jumpers.
Then about ten year ago Mr Bright Spark, an AFL Strategic Planning Officer, decided that spectators were being confused by these historic and distinctively coloured club treasures. He decreed that Away Teams must wear a different sort of jumper to the one their loyal supporters, and their parents before them, grew up loving and cheering for.
The aforesaid Mr Bright Spark then decreed that Away Teams must wear what was basically a white jumper with a few club logos on it. They looked ghastly. They were pale and anaemic. Many true blue loyal supporters were less than impressed and very unhappy to see their bronzed Anzac footy heroes running around in weak as water pale white jumpers.
 However, club officials quickly realised having two jumpers, their real jumper and a white one with some animal or bird pictures on it, provided an opportunity for a new revenue stream. They hired marketing gurus to devise advertising campaigns to sell the very white Away Jumper to their supporters.
At the same time Mr Bright Sparks’ cousin, Mr Smart Aleck, an AFL Public Relation Development Officer, did the exact opposite with the outfits worn by the umpires. For over a hundred years the umpires had always worn white shirts and shorts with long black socks. However, Mr Smart Aleck announced that this was quite wrong. He said that umpires wearing whites could not be seen by the players who would keep bumping into them. He decreed that the umpires would have to wear brightly coloured shirts and shorts, just like the Away Teams used to do before they were made to wear their Away white jumpers.
And so it transpired that while the Away Teams started wearing white jumpers so that they could be seen, the umpires stopped wearing whites because they could not be seen. I mean it was all so obvious. Why didn’t somebody think of it one hundred years ago?
Worse was to come. Club officials soon realised that they could change the format of their basic white Away Jumpers from season to season and raise even more money. Each year the poor but loyal supporter would have to fork out anywhere up to $100 to buy a new Away Jumper for his ten year old footballing prodigy.
After that the floodgates opened. In 2012, the Dockers, whose proud history goes back to 1995, when they first ran on to the field looking like well dressed Italian gentlemen in jumpers that were red and white and blue and green and purple, decided on BIG changes. They became the first club in AFL history to completely change their Home Jumper. After seventeen years in the competition they threw their red, white, blue, green and purple jumper off Victoria Quay and hired an advertising graphic artist to design a new one.
That is why the Dockers today play their Home Games in a jumper that is a hybrid of a navy blue Carlton jumper and the navy blue Victorian state jumper with its big white V. The Dockers chose to go with a lot of little Vs and a deep purple jumper that looks navy blue in the dark with light behind it.
After some time, AFL clubs took note of their anguished supporters’ cries to get rid of the weak as water white Away Jumper and put a bit of colour back into it. The result has been Essendon running around in jumpers with their traditional red sash and a horrible washed out bluey grey coloured jumper, if coloured is the right word.
The mighty Carlton Blues traded in their white Away Jumper for an insipid pale blue which makes one think of a water colour by Constable. It’s pathetic really.
Just last week I was at the Eagles versus Bulldogs game. The proud Doggies, once known as Footscray, have a Home Jumper that is basically dark blue, with red white and blue stripes around the midriff. They wear blue shorts and socks. It looks terrific and has been worn with pride by some of the game’s greats, including Ted Whitten and Doug Hawkins.
The legendary Ted Whitten passed away some years ago so, thankfully, he was saved from the shock of seeing his beloved ‘doggies’ run onto Subiaco Oval for their Away Game wearing red shorts, red socks and an Away jumper that was predominantly red and white, with just a tiny blue band around the midriff.
“They look just like the Sydney Swans,” exclaimed my wife, as the red and white Doggies crashed through their supporters’ banner and onto the field. Of course my wife is a strong traditionalist. After all, she has stayed with me for 45 years. Ironically, most of the Bulldog supporters around the club banner were wearing the Doggies traditional colours.
How I long to watch those games where, for some unexplained reason, both teams wear their traditional colours. It happens when Collingwood plays Essendon in the ANZAC Day games. It happens when the Adelaide Crows play their cross town rival, Port Power. It happens in Grand Finals. But it does not happen very often.
Speaking of Collingwood, a club loved by its supporters and hated by just about everyone else, may I say a word on its behalf? Through all of the colour changes that have befallen the other 17 AFL clubs, Collingwood has been resolute and steadfast in its determination to play every game in its traditional black and white jumper. I know their President, Eddie Maguire, did on one famous occasion say that Collingwood did have an Away Game strip.
“We play Home games in a white jumper with black stripes and play our Away games in a black jumper with white stripes,” said Eddie with a very straight face. Eddie is quite a joker.
It is a rare pleasure, today, to see two AFL teams playing each other and wearing their traditional club colours. It stirs in me memories of the old days; when we had the drop kick and the stab kick and reserves only came on to replace an injured player. There was no zone defence or flooding and the AFL was that unique game among games, a team game that was also man on man.
Today our footballers are much more athletic. They need to be, because they spend most of the match sprinting from rugby scrums and rolling wrestling matches at one end of the ground to rugby scrums and rolling wrestling matches at the other end. Except for when they are resting on the interchange bench. But that is another story.
I dream of the day when all clubs do away with their Away Game strip and once more play in their traditional club jumpers for every game, both home and away. Just as they did in their early days. Well, perhaps not the Dockers.

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