Like the pre-season itself, it’s become harder over time to take the jumpers made for the NAB [Whatever it is now] seriously.
The mid-90s saw several designs that would be regularly worn throughout following premiership seasons. North Melbourne’s 1995 blue yolk with stripes and Kangaroo was one of the first an instant favourite, and was the club’s away jumper for several seasons.
St Kilda took things a step further, adopting the hot-cross bun design worn for the 1996 Ansett Cup premiership as the home jumper a season later – and very nearly it became a premiership jumper (and thus, perhaps, the club’s home design in perpetuity).
The design completed the treble in 2002 when it was demoted to away jumper status (in the days when “away” jumpers weren’t necessarily “clash” jumpers), and was the basis for 2001’s infamous Pura Lightstart one-off and the resulting, improved clash jumper with red trim worn for 2002 and 2003. Incidentally, the first appearance of the “Yellow Peril” was against Carlton in Round 20, 2001, and its last appearance was against Carlton in Round 20, 2003.
Other examples of those times when 60,000-plus would attend a pre-season final include Melbourne’s first stylised M design, which inspired a couple of away/clash jumpers over the next decade, and Adelaide’s 1996 design – which was pitted against St Kilda’s new hot cross bun design in the quarter finals – which would inspire the Crows’ clash jumper all of 12 years later. Also, there’s Fitzroy’s pre-season jumper worn in 1995 and 1996, which featured half-chevrons that were echoed in what for all intents and purposes should have been St Kilda’s clash jumper in place of the dreaded “apron” design, but for a potentially rigged vote.
Fast forward nearly two decades and St Kilda this year ran around in two of its three NAB Challenge games in the popular (several people I follow on Twitter can’t be wrong) “Stickman” jumper.
The jumper was a competition winner’s design, hence a couple of elements markedly differing to what you’d see from the typical manufacturer-designed…designs.
Firstly, there’s the all-red back, which has never occurred in St Kilda’s history. Designers have typically steered well clear of using anything other than white to dominate a clash or alternative jumper, even with teams that don’t have white in their colours. St Kilda’s been no exception since the AFL really started standardising (well, to a point) their guidelines for clash jumpers, and that came around the time they told the club to find a design to supersede the very popular candy stripe jumper (which ended with the apron jumper disaster).
Then, of course, is the star of the show. The clever thing about the jumper is that the Stickman acts as the white middle panel we have in the home jumper (in the original design it covered the length of the jumper – the top of its halo touched the collar), with essentially red and black halves where the respective panels go.
The Stickman itself could never be brought back permanently for a few reasons. The first is that, whilst it has excellent novelty value, the nature of the figure has excellent novelty value, i.e. it’s a novelty. It’s a novelty in the historical sense (nostalgia explains explains much of its popularity), with the figure sitting comically amongst the Lion, Tiger, Magpie, Bomber, etc. Also, the idea of a thin, faceless stick figure representing a club is exacerbated by the deep ties to the desperately unsuccessful post-Jeans era from the late 1970s until the mid 1980s.
Then of course there is the reason why it was ditched in the first place (in favour of the slightly less iconic Stickman #2) – the small copyright dispute over use of the image launched by the producers and James Bond from the TV show The Saint.
My point is that the NAB “Challenge” – with pre-season games now officially acknowledged as practice matches in all but name – allows for these designs (see Richmond’s and North’s silly swirls designs) to be used more as merchandise novelties and less so as testing grounds for clubs in conjunction with designers as far as the potential for creating serious, iconic designs goes.
But there’s a flipside to the Stickman jumper. Despite the nearly-comical figure being its centrepiece, the design overall looks rather bold. It’s proved the same point that last year’s 140 Years Jumper did – the St Kilda’s jumpers would look better with nearly all of the jumper being an even split between red and black, with minimal white, or white only on the trim. It’s a bolder, meaner look, but the white cuffs and collar break it up and add a touch of class.
And where does that leave our “actual” jumper for the foreseeable future? Well, this is a rare season in relation to recent times in that there is no overbearing difference to the core design of the home and clash jumpers, except for one thing – the club logo will now feature more prominently, level on the chest with the AFL logo. The sponsor logo (now Ledified on the front at all times) now sits below, which is a strange move as we’re the only club in the AFL that seems to have skirted around the AFL’s directive of having sponsor logos in line with the AFL logo and club logos above or below that. You need to go back to 2006 when that last happened. Also worth noting that then-President Greg Westaway mentioned at the club AGM in early 2011 that the AFL also had guidelines in place for the size of logos on jumpers, hence the old-style logo that took up a large portion of the old jumper – something that I think would still look excellent – having been shrunken down over the past two decades or so.
The clash jumper I’ve got no qualms about; in fact, since the white horizontal panel was made to match the vertical in the cross last season it’s arguably best clash jumper we’ve had – well, maybe after the candy strip – and with the wider red and black panels it’s also the closest we’ll get to the home jumper. If the club continues its pledge to remain as close as possible to tri-panel design, then perhaps we might just be edging towards the home jumper with a white back.
Of course, there’s this year’s New Zealand jumper. Again, mostly black and red with minimal white, but as far as jumper designs go I could lose the traditional artwork (I can understand having it there for a one-off ). Also, as much as the top half looks great with the all-black with white stripe down the middle, I think every Saints fan subconsciously expects it to form a cross and for the jumper to almost be an inverse hot-cross bun design. Instead, it looks like an incomplete white panel of the home jumper masquerading as a tie. It’s close, but not quite there.
And for those with an eagle eye, GoodScore has continued its usual leaking of jumper design, except for the uh…image part. This is for the match against Collingwood, and given GoodScore’s track record they’ll have the official graphic for the design up (if there is one) before the PR-op release.