Robert Anderson is a Brisbane-based Warriors fan and long-time member of the club. Throughout 2020, he will share his memories and thoughts on his beloved team for This Warriors Life. Here’s the third edition of Robert’s ‘Warrior-Roo’ blog (find previous entries HERE):
There’s something about the Warriors and jerseys that always seem to create a headline. The comments are usually around the amount of jerseys released with the ‘more jerseys than wins’ line often being thrown around. Usually it’s not so much regarding the designs of the jerseys themselves, although there has been the odd shocker…I’m looking at you paintball jerseys. But right now, front and centre of the jersey-related controversy is the much-maligned Kiwi Bush Shirt. There has never been so much controversy over a jersey and the media, especially over this side of the ditch, have been sinking the boot in. Let’s examine exactly what went down. As a jersey enthusiast and former collector I feel somewhat qualified to speak on the matter.
When I first heard there was going to be another Wellington jersey I was pumped. The 2013 version is easily one of the most popular Warriors designs ever and stayed true to the original Wellington representative jersey design. It’s probably up there with the 2007 Auckland RL commemorative jersey in popularity. Looking at both those designs it’s easy to see why they’re so fondly remembered as they both faithfully represent the rugby league heritage of both regions. With this in mind I was expecting something similar for the 2020 version – maybe with a slight modern twist. However, what we got was anything but, and to be perfectly honest I thought it was a gee-up when I first saw the design!
Was it a picnic blanket, or was a tribute to NZ’s rich lumberjack history? Sure, it had the black and yellow so closely associated with the region, but what was the checkered design all about? The official line from the club and manufacturer Canterbury was that it was a nod to the Swandri flannelet shirt. You’ll have to excuse my ignorance, but being an Aussie and never having been to Wellington I had to actually google Swanndri. Ok, so it’s a shirt initially worn by farmers, but has since evolved into a fashion item. That’s great, but what does that have to do with the Warriors? And herein lies the majority of the problem in my opinion.
To put the Bush Shirt in context, it's a one off jersey based on an iconic rural NZ design to be worn against North Queensland Cowboys, played in Welly (hence the colours).
By same guy who has designed all the Warriors, Chiefs and Maori ABs kit for years.
Bet they sell out pic.twitter.com/WzZ93KElss
— Steve_Hale_2019 (@SteveHa09255868) November 12, 2019
It reminds me of the Knights and their hi-vis mining themed jersey, but at the very least mining is synonymous with the Newcastle region. In fact the more I look at the jersey the more I think it would have been perfect for the Cowboys. At least it would have had some sort of connection to the team and the area it represents. It almost feels like they were out of ideas for a design and this is something that just came up in a random brainstorming session. However seeing as though the club has to sign off on every design at least 18 months ahead of time they clearly thought it would be a hit.
We’ve definitely had some decisive and polarizing designs over the years, particularly some of the Nines jerseys. But the reaction to the Bush Shirt was something else altogether and overwhelmingly negative. This is unprecedented from the club that traditionally sells more jerseys than any other NRL team. The Mad Butcher, a Wellington native, did his very best to talk up the jersey (bless his cottons) but he was definitely in the minority. The club itself even had to use the negative publicity as a way to promote the jersey on social media, and who could forget Cameron George’s expletive-laden speech to the playing group claiming that everyone in NZ and Australia are “taking the piss out of us” after the release of the jersey.
Since Canterbury really mastered the high-detailed sublimination designs with the 2012 pounamu jersey, we’ve had many weird and wonderful designs. But have they gone too far this time expecting the loyal supporters to get on board? Personally I look forward with eager anticipation to the release of the next season’s designs once the season is done and dusted. I’m also a former jersey collector, but had to give up the expensive hobby as I have two young children. Speaking frankly this is the first season that I’ve looked at the range and actually found it difficult to pinpoint a jersey I genuinely love. I ended up purchasing the hammerhead alternate jersey as it had a resemblance to the 2003-2005 away jersey, while still having its own identity with a stylized chevron. But for the first time ever I looked at the Bush Shirt and decided to vote with my wallet. Even an end-of-season Canterbury sale at Harbourtown on the Gold Coast is unlikely to change this.
With all this said one thing is for certain, the Warriors have got everyone’s attention so the ball is now in our court. And who knows, if we have a famous win against the Cowboys in Wellington then the old Kiwi Bush Shirt may just be re-invented as a cult classic!