A couple of days ago the New South Wales Rugby League announced that they would be wearing an alternative playing strip for one of the games in 2019 series.
The stated reasons for doing so vary from adding excitement to the series to promoting the game. I hope people realise that this is untrue. The new jersey is nothing but a cash grab pure and simple.
Rugby league is a game built on passion. A part of this passion is generated from the tribalism that emanates from the contest of a physically demanding sport that leaves the viewer in no doubt about the character of the players and the teams competing. Fans support their teams through thick and thin and wear their colours with pride.
However, what happens if the team you support starts to change colours? Do you lose a sense of that tribalism?
I understand that in club land a team changes jersey designs every two years, which I think is too often. Furthermore, some teams add and change colours depending on the owners. The Warriors are a prime example of this, and the Penrith Panthers to a lesser extent have changed colours since their inception.
However, if South Sydney ever changed from the cardinal and myrtle to a red, white and blue, then I would quickly turn in my membership. I know the modern world of business dictates that there is money to be made from merchandise and clubs are always chasing coin, but really is anything sacred?
The NSW team has run out in the sky blue since its inception. I know that there have been variances to this over the years. I know in 1997 during the Super League conflict the NSW team had a predominantly dark blue jersey.
It was rightfully ridiculed and when the game unified again the sky blue returned. Moreover, I know that over the past number of years the sky blue although dominant has had variations in design.
Ultimately, I noted these changes to my friends every season and tolerated these modifications for the reason that the sky blue was still dominant. Maybe I am a traditionalist out of touch with the modern way of things. Perhaps I need to take a chill pill and relax as it is only for one game. Both no doubt are right.
Though, what happens if we get to the point where every game has a different jersey design? What happens if the colours change? Is it possible that there could be changes over time that dilute the passion that is held for the contest?
It seems the passion for the straightforward sky blue is gone. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t make the changes they make.
I don’t know – I liked the idea that the sky blue that my grandfather and father wear in support and that my brother and I also wear in support would be worn in support by the following generation. This sense of tradition adds to the tribalism and passion of the game. I just think there is a beauty in that.