I love my rugby. I love buying rugby jerseys to the point that family and friends have labelled some of my casual sartorial choice “rugby chic”. But it seems in recent years, that many a rugby side cannot wear a jersey which is far from criticism. And as the jerseys which will be adorned by teams at this year’s World Cup are now being released, what better time to ask, “why is there never a rugby jersey fans like?”.
When the Wallabies’ jersey was released earlier this year, I saw my newsfeed adorned with comments akin to petty student politics. There was mud and filth thrown around as everyone from the ARU to Asics to the poor journalist who broke the story was embroiled in the public dislike for the jersey. Personally, I don’t mind the design. Sure it pales in comparison to the proud gold with green sleeves worn when we won the 1999 edition, but in my eyes that is the ultimate Wallabies’ jersey. I know people will disagree, but hey, that’s just me. The Wallabies’ players, to their credit came out in defence of the new jersey, ultimately saying that they didn’t mind what they wore on the pitch, as the honour to represent your country was enough. For mere mortals such as myself though who only need to pay $160 to don the gold, people will voice their displeasure.
Nick McArdle, host of FoxSports rugby program Rugby HQ, hit the nail on the head in my opinion. He reminded viewers that jersey manufacturers such as Asics pay huge sums of money to be the official supplier for national teams. And of course they want to see a return on this investment. Each nation has a set number of supporters, and no one is going to purchase the same jersey twice. This is why we are treated new jerseys every 1 or 2 years. In saying this, there is something to be said for continuity. Argentina in my eyes has one of the nicest team kits, and the nuanced changes to the traditional blue and white hoops continue to hit the mark. Their away kit as well, a dark blue fading into Puma pelt, an homage to the team’s nickname, is beautiful.
I think that a lot of the displeasure stems from the price of the jersey which, even when trying to see a return on an investment by a manufacturer, is obscene. Considering a majority of the purchases are for children, to ask a family to dish out hundreds of dollars on merchandise is unfair. This market needs to be considered, and I reckon when manufacturers acknowledge this, there will be a lot less hate.
If people have such a problem with this year’s jersey, they should just wait until next year. I’m sure they’ll have something to say about that one. But mark my words – if the Wallabies do well in England in September (cross my fingers, toes and every other body part, touch wood, say a prayer and grasp my rabbit’s foot) the jerseys will be selling like hotcakes.