Rugby League


Hulk smashes records as Canberra Raiders add six new jerseys

A novelty Hulk jersey smashed records for Raiders merchandise sales in 2014, prompting Canberra's NRL club to revamp its wardrobe and release six new jumper designs for the 2015 season.

The new range will include a predominantly yellow away jersey, a mechanical-themed Auckland Nine's jumper based on the club's "Green Machine" nickname and a heritage jersey featuring images of the club's first premiership in 1989.

Fairfax Media can reveal four of the six designs, but the Raiders are also set to unveil two more special event jerseys in 2015 - potentially an Anzac commemorative jumper and another joint-venture with global comic brand Marvel.

Canberra's jersey supplier, ISC, had unprecedented success with the release of their Marvel-themed jerseys in 2014, based on comic-strip superheroes and worn by the Raiders, Sydney Roosters, North Queensland Cowboys, St George Illawarra Dragons and Manly Sea Eagles.

The Raiders and NRL remain secretive about whether there will be a second venture in 2015.

Despite a lean year on the field, the Raiders more than doubled their jersey sales in 2014 (from 3,403 to 7,778), with the one-off Hulk jumper accounting for more than 35 per cent of entire sales.


Raiders marketing manager Jason Mathie said 'The Hulk' had been the most successful selling jersey in the club's history, prompting Canberra to think outside the square in its designs for 2015.

"It's not just about selling jerseys, it's about identifying new markets for rugby league," Mathie said. "The Hulk jersey actually opened our brand up to a whole new market. We had people who'd never been to a rugby league game before asking about getting a jersey.

"We've got an ageing membership-base, so it also drew a younger audience to our brand.

"The Hulk jersey has been the most successful jersey we've ever done in our history, since 1982."

Jersey sales are the top merchandise-seller for clubs and the Raiders have responded by recently employing a brand manager.

Mathie admitted there was a fine balance between maintaining traditional brand awareness and over-flooding the market with new concepts.

But Mathie cited the example of the New Zealand Warriors, who had gone from being one of the lower mechandise sellers in the NRL to the top by releasing a huge range of alternate jersey designs.

"They proved by thinking outside the box you can attract different markets ... they were the catalyst to get clubs to think more broadly about just maintaining their core traditional ranges," Mathie said.

"Having said that, there's a lot of history in the South Sydney jersey and the Dragons, so each club has their own justification.

"At the Raiders we think there's a balance. We want to maintain our green strip from 1982 but, given the transient community in Canberra, there's people who haven't grown up with the Raiders. So we think we're in a position where we can maintain some tradition but also introduce new garments.

"It gives fans a choice. As a club, we realise we need to have more than just a home-and-away strip. We need to have multiple strips per year because it opens us up to new markets. We think six is the maximum we'd arrange, if you go beyond that they dilute each other."

Clubs must maintain their core home-and-away jerseys for a minimum of two years.

While the regular home jersey for 2015 is based on a very traditional Raiders strip, the away jersey has swapped predominantly white for yellow.  

"We liked the fact we could maintain one of our core colours, yellow, but in a different way to any away jersey we've had before."

The one-off legacy jersey, to be worn in NRL's Heritage Round, features an image of 1989 captains Mal Meninga and Dean Lance holding the premiership trophy aloft.