Although it’s been seven months since they last played at Docklands, there will no doubt be a sense of familiarity as Western Bulldogs supporters watch their boys run out onto the turf they’ve now called home for 20 years.
‘Sons of the West’ will be blaring through the PA as they run through their banner in their traditional blue jumper with red and white hoops… with the added addition of a jarring breast plate and bubble-shaped imagery slapped on top.
I’ve been dreading this for a while really, but should we really be surprised?
A few years ago we saw the NRL introduce Marvel-themed jerseys into the competition to a mixed reaction – I remember thinking at the time that the AFL wouldn’t go to that extreme.
Even when Etihad Stadium was renamed Marvel Stadium, I held confidence that the sponsorship wouldn’t extend to the playing uniforms, at least not during a home-and-away season game.
That confidence took a big hit when it was announced various AFLW teams would be wearing Marvel-themed jumpers, thankfully only as warm-up tops after a public outcry against them being used during actual match play.
Then this happened.
Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic about this, but judging by the outburst of reactions in the last few days, it seems like I’m not the only one.
Some people would make a fair argument that these guernseys are just a bit of fun, that they’re good for the kids and bring in more revenue to the club, especially to one that hasn’t historically been a financial powerhouse of the league.
Let’s not forget that this cash grab hasn’t been completely unprecedented. We saw teams venturing into this space in the ’90s, with Carlton’s infamous baby blue jumper used as a promotion for a famous chocolate.
This would soon be followed by North’s garish orange jumper for the telco of the same name, while St Kilda trotted out in their canary yellow monstrosity for a brand of milk.
Is a Thor jumper any worse than any of these?
A lot of other people would argue yes, that morphing a footy jumper into a superhero costume is on a whole new level of tackiness that demeans not only the Western Bulldogs but also the AFL.
Let’s not forget, the playing guernsey is arguably the strongest piece of visual identity for a football club, which is perhaps why seeing players photo-shopped into rival team guernseys during trade period evokes feelings of uneasiness and nausea amongst many fans, or why Hawthorn supporters still do a double take when seeing Luke Hodge running around in a Brisbane Lions jumper.
And it’s not as though I’m against teams wearing jumpers outside of their traditional home ones.
As a footy jumper aficionado, I love a good alternate strip. There are countless examples of alternate jumpers done well, whether it be Brisbane’s Fitzroy-inspired away jumper, North’s ’90s throwback ‘Bounding Roo’ number, or the verve of the many Indigenous round designs.
Sadly though, the number of good alternate jumpers seems to be far outweighed by poor ones.
Nevertheless, here we are with our hands up in the air over a piece of polyester that some grown men will run around in on a Saturday evening.
With a week before the first bounce of the season, we should probably be spending more time talking about the actual footy itself.
But when something so ugly is set to bestow itself upon us in the first week of the season, how could we just let it go unnoticed?
Footy’s great, and so is a good Marvel flick. Unfortunately it turns out combining the two together isn’t so great.