As tends to be the case with every contentious issue in the AFL, the perception from the general public is based on misinformation and an inability to interpret facts. This is certainly true for the kit clash between Geelong and Collingwood last Friday night.
Unfortunately, people draw their conclusions based on limited facts, so do not know what they are talking about.
The problem is exacerbated when people like Eddie McGuire say misleading things.
Whether it is true or not that he and former Geelong president Frank Costa had a gentlemen’s agreement dating back 20 years for Geelong to wear white shorts and Collingwood black every time the two teams played is irrelevant, because in Round 15, 2007, that is not what happened.
Geelong wore blue, Collingwood wore black, many people were confused, and controversy ensued. Beginning with the preliminary final that year, Geelong have worn white shorts, and their usual predominantly white jumper, while Collingwood have always worn black shorts with their predominantly black jumper, every time they have met since.
At the time, however, McGuire did not say Geelong had broken an eight-year gentlemen’s agreement.
Then there are the misconceptions. So many people have said it is Collingwood’s responsibility to have a suitable away jumper, and even that they are the only team without one. Their clash guernsey is currently close to an inverse of their home guernsey.
Collingwood’s clash jumper is much more appropriate than, say, Essendon’s still rather dark and predominantly red jumper, which simply is not visually dissimilar enough to their home jumper to be considered a clash jumper.
The perception amongst many that the jumpers themselves caused the issue is also blatantly false. This is coupled with the ‘it wasn’t an issue for the last 100 years, so why is it now now’ argument.
Well, actually, it was. But the comp was so versed in tradition and narrow ways of thinking that clubs with similar jumpers just had deal with it.
Watch Gary Ablett Senior’s famous mark in the goal square against Collingwood – who back then wore mainly white with black stripes – and then claim the two kits are sufficiently different.
And, of course, the whinge-patrol brigade also have to hijack the discussion. Confoundingly, both McGuire and current Geelong president Colin Carter have been accused of whinging since it happened.
While McGuire’s comments were misleading, surely we all understand he is still happy his team won. As for the perception of some confused social media contributors, Carter was not blaming the jumpers for Geelong’s defeat.
Finally, it is the inconsistency of philosophy that led to this. The problem is that clashes only seem to matter sometimes.
For example, in recent years, when Adelaide or Hawthorn play Gold Coast away, they wore their mainly white clash strips – no confusion. Yet when Gold Coast have gone away to those teams, they have worn their home red jumper, as well as red shorts. Hawthorn vs Gold Coast matches – especially in the sun – are so confusing, you wonder why they put the game on in the first place.
Then there’s the big game philosophy. When Adelaide or Port Adelaide, for example, play a big Melbourne club like Essendon, Collingwood and Carlton, the away team simply wears their lighter clash strip and are done with it.
But when they play each other, such as the Showdown, both teams always wear their home jumpers. If the showdown is not a clash, it is close. But when Collingwood host Essendon, Carlton, or Richmond, they always wear their back shorts, while the away team wears their predominantly dark home jumper and white shorts. If not confusing for some people, it is at least aesthetically displeasing.
The Geelong trend is truly the most confounding. From around 2005, finals football has seen home teams regularly wear white shorts to either avoid clashes or simply improve the aesthetics. This is presumably at the instruction of the AFL, although how can we know that, given it is never clarified.
Geelong wore white shorts in a home elimination final against Melbourne in 2005, and have in almost all home finals since. Even more unnecessary examples like St Kilda wearing white shorts against the Western Bulldogs in both the 2009 and 2010 preliminary finals – most likely because St Kilda has slightly more white on their jumper than the Bulldogs – then Collingwood wearing white shorts in a home 2011 preliminary final against Hawthorn showed white in your guernsey generally means white shorts.
You can extrapolate from this that the mindset is for finals, things must look as good as possible, and when one team has white at the top and the other has white at the bottom of their kit, it does not look visually pleasing.
Between 2016 and 2018, the AFL followed through with this philosophy, but only with Geelong. Geelong are now the only team with a predominantly white jumper, so it made sense, however what does not make is sense is the inconsistency.
During these years, Geelong only wore home shorts against Sydney, as most teams do – presumably because of the large chunk of white on Sydney’s jumper – as well as Gold Coast and Brisbane at home. Gold Coast is consistent with how they are kitted in most other games, while you can only guess they did so against Brisbane because they do not have shorts that match their Fitzroy jumpers they always wear in Victoria.
The problem is: why do these aesthetics only matter sometimes?
So this season, the mindset changed again. The previous three would see any team except the three listed above wear their home shorts in away games against Geelong. Light kits versus dark kits, never any confusion and always aesthetically pleasing.
But Geelong have worn blue shorts in every home game this year except Round 23 against Carlton when they wore the Indigenous guernsey. The result is that in matches against West Coast, Adelaide or Melbourne, for example, congestion has led to slight confusion for audiences.
The counter argument tends to be that if you can’t tell the difference, you must be blind. Well I would argue on behalf of all of us who do not have impossibly good eye-mind coordination that if there are any moments when the mind has to process who is who, then there is a clash.
And congested play between one top-heavy white team and one bottom-heavy white team leads to that. Last Friday night I found myself processing who is who for literally the entire game.
There was quite clearly a clash on Friday night that should never have happened, and only did because the philosophy that led to the clash had withered away this year.
Hopefully this Friday night’s game is at least as aesthetically pleasing as it can be, especially if the game itself turns ugly for Cats fans.