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Diluting Bombers' tradition a disgrace

Going grey ... Essendon's new alternate strip and (inset) the original alternate jumper with a wider red sash.

Going grey ... Essendon's new alternate strip and (inset) the original alternate jumper with a wider red sash.

ESSENDON supporters had every right yesterday morning to wake up happy. Not only has their club thrust itself back into the premiership race for the first time in a decade but rarely since then have the Bombers looked so Bomber-like.

James Hird has returned to Windy Hill with Mark "Bomber" Thompson firmly by his side. Tim Watson's son Jobe is playing like the 2012 Brownlow medallist and were the vote to be taken today, he would also be the All-Australian captain. The Essendon brand is back in town.

Essendon may have been forced into this, but for the club to link the word "heritage" with this bland travesty is an insult to its proud tradition. 

What a time to pick up The Age and see Michael Hurley wearing a grey Bombers guernsey. Perhaps this current blissful state was as good a time as any to reveal the shameful move to change the club's colours for Saturday night's clash against St Kilda.

2012 Adelaide clash jumper. Click for more photos

2012 AFL clash jumpers

The array of alternate jumpers worn by AFL teams as their away or clash strip. Photo:

For the first time in 140 years the Bombers will play not in red-and-black but grey. Grey! Forget all the baloney about heritage and John Coleman and ancient Latin mottos. Essendon may have been forced into this, but for the club to link the word "heritage" with this bland travesty is an insult to its proud tradition.

Not only should Essendon fans be horrified at the manner in which the AFL is diluting their tradition, history and therefore the power and standing of their football club, but football fans Australia-wide should be alarmed at the general erosion of the brands and symbols of all of their clubs.

The competition's governing body has never worked harder or invested more into selling elite Australian football into New South Wales and Queensland. Surely there is some risk associated with transforming the symbols of the most powerful clubs in the country into something rapidly approaching generic.

Some weeks ago Adrian Anderson suggested to Collingwood it revert to wearing black-and-white striped socks. The game's presentation is Anderson's responsibility as it should be, but Collingwood says its players have never worn black-and-white hoops on their legs. Collingwood prevailed. Presentation is one thing; club and therefore brand association something so much more.

Hawthorn wore that dreadful predominantly white jumper against Carlton on Friday night because of the AFL dictum that one side must always be dark and the other light. Its argument has been reinforced by the most recent $1.125 billion broadcast deal which the league says makes it more important than ever that the game looks as it should. But eroding clubs' brands cannot be good for business — and since when did brown and gold clash with navy blue? Particularly when one side wears black shorts and the other white.

Carlton has admitted it erred when it changed to that embarrassing pale blue clash strip. Club president Stephen Kernahan said on Friday night that the jumper was "dreadful" and that a new white and navy version was in the pipeline. But Carlton "are the navy blues".

Having already diluted the Essendon versus Richmond "clash of the sashes" — the AFL wrongly insisted it was too difficult to tell the clubs apart — the new grey jumper will be worn in the next Richmond "clash" in round 22 instead of the jumper the Bombers wanted to wear, which was a revisiting of the TAC-sponsored "seatbelt" jumper.

That guernsey at least was black with a red sash and for a good cause. But clubs are only allowed one of those each season and Essendon already has in place its cancer fundraising jumper with the yellow sleeve.

Two years ago the AFL allowed the seatbelt jumper for a one-off game on the condition the Bombers come up with an acceptable alternative jumper and Saturday night's grey version comes after two years of behind-the-scenes debate and politics.

The AFL has been railing for all that time against the wider sash the Bombers reluctantly moved to five years ago. Now Essendon has kept its part of the bargain and move to grey much to the horror, surely, of its fans. And yet the TAC jumper — a chance for the Bombers to make their mark for a good cause — has been given the thumbs down.


  • The strip looks excellent. Vastly different clash strips should be a must.

    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 5:25PM
    • Essendon first played the Melbourne football club(in what is now known as the AFL) 115 years ago.

      And there has never been any issues with guernsey's clashing.

      The strip they have picked only looks remotely ok because it still maintains a red sash on a black background(albeit surrounded by grey).

      Completely unnecessary and a needless trashing of tradition. The AFL of which has never really been that great at upholding anyhow.

      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 5:47PM
    • I agree @obtusian. The strip looks good. @Caro please note: clubs to have accepted 21st Century realities and changed away colours: Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Essendon, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Melbourne. Clubs which didnt have to change colours but were flexible in their configuration: Collingwood, Fremantle, Geelong, GWS, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Sydney, West Coast, Western Bulldogs. CLUB WHICH CLINGS STUBBORNLY TO ITS PAST BY STICKING UGLY YELLOW PANELS ON THE SIDE OF ITS GUERNSEY: RICHMOND. Hmmm, what;s your club again, @Caro? The same 'stuck in the past' club that has made the finals twice in 30 years and hasn't won a flag since 1980? Just asking ...

      Thx Eleventhirtyeight
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 10:28AM
    • clash strips are a joke...that's why they have white pants!!!
      diasgree strongly..... :(

      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 10:53AM
  • Just another step in dumbing down the AFL TV "product" to appeal to its new target market: Bogans living in Sydney who cannot stretch the brain cells enough to figure out which side is which without remedial assistance.

    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 5:49PM
    • Hey DC. If you think that sending AFL to Sydney is a bad idea then about 5 million people are in complete agreement with you.

      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 11:50PM
    • Hey DC, what was the crowd at the big Rabbitohs-Panthers game on Sunday? Yeah, thought so ...

      Thx Eleventhirtyeight
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 10:42AM
  • So how about the erosion of the brands and symbols of the SANFL and the WAFL? Don't they count when it comes to heritage and tradition? Port Adelaide were forced to give up their heritage when they joined the AFL, so what is the problem with the VFL clubs dong the same? It's always all about the Melbourne clubs. Why should football fans Australia-wide be concerned about a whinge from a few big melbourne clubs? The traditions of the VFL: a piddly little suburban competition where half the teams are bankrupt from poaching the best players from other leagues, while the other half don't have a chnace in hell of ever winning a premiership.

    Heritage & Tradition
    the SANFL and WAFL
    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 5:57PM
    • Don't you know H&T,its only the Victorians that matter in the AFL. has been that way from the beginning of the expanded comp and stuff the rest of us. To read the official history of the game from AFL HQ, one would think proud clubs like Subiaco, East/South Freo and Norwood just don't have a place in the fabric of our game. We are witnessing the Victorianization of the national game.

      History Makers of 1984
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 5:45AM
    • got a chip on your shoulder the size of a log mate, time to get over it. fact is SAFL and WAFL teams would give their right arm for the privilege of joining the VFL later the AFL. but the AL is really just the VFL under a different guise and to cover it up the VFA was then named VFL.
      as far as PA goes, well Collinwood beat them to it by being in the VFL by a hundred years or so
      BTW away jumpers are rubbish, and the Essendon one is a disgrace

      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 8:36AM

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