Second skin ... Collingwood players will wear jumpers made from varying fabric to make them harder to catch. Photo: Pat Scala
COLLINGWOOD players will next year wear bespoke jumpers tailored by not only body size, but position, as the club unashamedly tries to grab a competitive advantage.
Hoping to achieve the sort of benefits in football that swimming achieved with speedsuits before they were outlawed, Collingwood has devised its own jumpers in collaboration with a boutique company.
Players will wear a different sort of jumper according to position, with defenders and some midfielders wearing a tight-fitting jumper with little give in the fabric to make it harder for them to be grabbed and tackled.
Other players, such as forwards, will wear jumpers with more stretch in them so that if grabbed in a marking contest the material will give and the player will not be restricted.
More stretch in the jumper will also make it easier for an umpire to see a hold in a marking contest.
The players will have different jumpers according to weather conditions, with a lighter-weight hot-weather jumper, a cold-weather jumper, and a different one for wet weather.
The jumpers essentially look the same but will be made from different materials that have been decided on by the players after examining uniforms worn by players of different sporting codes around the world and the club's sports science department.
''We are constantly looking at getting an advantage - high-altitude training, re-doing the Westpac Centre, more coaches, and this is part of that thinking,'' club chief executive Gary Pert said yesterday.
''Four years ago we said if you look at elite sport like the Olympics, the apparel and equipment they wear - because they are dealing with hundredths of a second - has become really critical and can make the difference to them.
''When you have a sport like swimming, their apparel was banned because it was breaking all the records, so the apparel is extremely important. And then other sports - cycling, running, where the apparel now is a competitive edge. We thought apparel is one area we might be able to get a competitive edge.''
Pert said players would have multiple fittings of jumpers to cater for changes to body shape that happen during the year, such as a player bulking up in the pre-season and then fining down.
''There are no sizes. Each jumper is tailored for each player. It's a bit like a wedding dress, there are a few fittings during the year,'' he said.
''The cuts will all be slightly different. Some players like a higher cut neck, others a lower neck, some tighter around the arms like a 'Toovs' [Alan Toovey], who is built like a greyhound, and 'Trav' [Travis Cloke], with big arms, likes a looser cut around the arm.''
While the club hopes to get a competitive advantage on the field, the motivation is as much about the potential financial benefit they may be able to gain.
Collingwood has worn jumpers made by adidas for the past 14 years but it has ended that contract. Adidas will now provide runners and boots only.
The club has formed a partnership with a small label, Star Athletic, a spin-off created specifically for this purpose from umbrella group The Promotion Factory.
The financial potential of getting a share of the wholesale and retail price of the product means the financial potential of the deal is significant.
''Without saying the exact dollars, there is great financial upside for Collingwood as a result of the different financial structure … even in a worst-case scenario we are financially better off,'' Pert said.
''We can also ensure the cost of the jumper is kept at a minimum in the long term.''
Four other AFL clubs are negotiating with Star Athletic about a similar arrangement.
Clubs have often complained of the comparatively small return they get from each jumper sale at retail outlets outside the club. Large manufacturers typically make four or five times more out of selling a football jumper than the football club.
From jumpers sold through Rebel Sport, for instance - where the purchasing power means the retailer demands a lower wholesale price from the manufacturer than other retailers, and even the clubs can command - clubs were getting a tenth of the return they got from other retailers or their own shop.
With Collingwood sharing in a cut of wholesale and retail through the partnership with Star Athletic, it will get a share of every jumper sold, no matter when or where it is sold.