THE STORY OF THE ADELAIDE FOOTBALL CLUB'S JUMPER
DO IT FOR THE JUMPER!
“A football jumper can be characterised as a totem – an enblematic object that symbolises and unites the tribe”
Graham Cornes, Inaugural Coach of the Adelaide Crows
In 1990 a new team was admitted into the AFL – the Adelaide Football Club. It had no logo, colours or jumper. One of the first tasks of the interim board was to decide on these. Many suggestions and designs were put forward. One of these was a blue, green and white jumper with an esoteric design representing South Australia’s coastline separating the land and the sea. About to try to bring together a disparate group of players from various clubs and states it was clear that not only the design didn’t give an impression of strength but it would not work as a rallying object as in “do it for the jumper!” It was important that colours and pattern meant something that the players, the club, the fans could identify with, own and be proud of. Hence the board determined that, as the team was going to be the inaugural South Australian team in the competition, it should rightly wear the state’s colours and hence red, navy and gold were claimed and used to produce an appropriate “football jumper”. And design? Traditionally football jumpers have comprised variations of stripes, hoops or sashes. Adelaide opted for broad hoops. It worked. Standing anonymously in the crowd at a trial match in Bunbury WA, the first time the jumper was worn interstate, Board Members Ed Betro and Adrian Sutter smiled and puffed out their chests when a spectator within earshot remarked “What a great football strip!” Coach Cornes had his totem and while it has undergone some modifications over the years it remains and worn proudly as the club home jumper.
In the 1950s or thereabouts Port Adelaide Magpies introduced their innovative “lace up” guernsey. It was so different from the guernseys worn today. Made of heavy canvas like material open from neck to hem down the front with metal eyelets through which to thread a white bootlace to close it up. It had white edging around the neck and arm holes. It was black with the iconic white “prison” bars on the front, white upper back with black numbers. That was it. No club logo or emblem, no sponsors logo or name and yet so talismatic. And those of other teams in the SANFL, and indeed VFL and most other leagues, were the same, albeit only one or two adopted the lace up style. Many players did wear the traditional long sleeved woollen jumpers, complete with collars. How football guernseys have changed – in style, design, numbering, fabric and “decoration”.
Most players today will opt for a tight fitting, sleeveless guernsey which will be made from a light-weight, but strong high-tech fabric that will “breathe”. That is, it will allow sweat to pass through to evaporate and thus play its part in cooling the player. As such it more closely resembles the “jerseys’ worn by rugby and hockey players and cyclists. They are quite short and to the dismay of traditionalists, worn outside the shorts A few will on occasion wear a wool/synthetic blend long sleeved “jumper” but these too will be quite close fitting but without the collars and buttons of days of yore – but can be worn “tucked in”. Both styles are close fitting and collarless in order to minimise a tackling player getting a grip but also to minimise risks of injuries to fingers due to getting caught in the uniform. An intriguing recent innovation to the design has been the addition of a small pocket at the base of the neck on the back. This is designed to carry a small GPS unit to collect and transmit data relating to distance, speed and variation of player physical efforts during a game and indeed training sessions
There has been little sanctity for the jumper in terms of away, clash, heritage, indigenous and special commemorative jumpers worn at various times. It was once a goal of our club to have in its museum or archives a sample of each jumper design worn in official matches. Great in theory but realistically impractical as even after just 30 years of its relatively short history it would necessitate an enormous amount of storage space to accommodate, let alone display. As of season 2020 Crows AFL players have worn nearly 60 different jumper designs. There have been changes to the collars, numbers, fabric, manufacturer template, fit and shape of the horizontal red, gold and blue stripes and hoops. Side panels have been introduce and removed as well as coloured “bibs”. But Adelaide is not alone in this in that certainly most AFL and many state leagues teams would have similar stories. If the team jumper is supposed to be revered why? Some changes come about when a club, for likely commercial reasons, changes manufacturer. These will be beyond the obvious change to new provider’s logo and probably include subtle changes to reflect brand identity. There may well be some licensing/copyright elements in play. There is certainly an opportunity to make some design and comfort alterations to the guernsey. Some changes come about as a TV requirement to enhance vision. Some guernseys such as heritage round, indigenous round, women’s health round, Anzac Day, rural round variations come about and are used to highlight significant events, social and community support and community issues. The number of these pertinent to “special rounds” each requiring its unique “one off” guernsey, seem to grow each year. Jumpers worn in the three Grand Finals are significantly unique though in that they have special Grand Final logos on them and they are particularly hard to earn!