Welsh rugby has been in a state of almost comedically persistent turmoil over the last 12 months. The regions and the WRU have been in a state of open warfare for some time now, and as we write this, the season’s barely a week away and the chances of peace seem incredibly remote. It’s hardly surprising then, that in amongst the constant he said, she said bullshit, you might have missed the longest running partnerships in Welsh regional rugby come to an end. Yes, after supplying the Ospreys kit since the region was founded in 2004, the Swansea-based outfit parted company with Kooga this year, and signed up with Aussie big noises, BLK. But is it a marriage made in heaven?
Over their decade or so in existence, the Ospreys have never been afraid to go big and bold with their shirts – this is a team that has changed the contrasting colour on their jersey pretty much every year they’ve been around, and have happily taken the field in jerseys with great swathes of both gold and purple on them…
But the one constant when they’ve done all this garish colour-swapping? Well, they’ve always been primarily in black… this year, well… what do you think? In some shots we’ve seen, it looks like a black that gradually fades down into an almost mauve colour, in others, such as the one above, it almost looks purple even in the dark bits.
You can make your own gags about a company called BLK not knowing what black is, but this is without a polarising move for the Ospreys. On the one hand, it’s a pretty striking, bold look that won’t go down well with traditionalists at all. The diagonal stripes on the front and side of the jersey are similar to the ones used on this season’s BLK Sharks shirts, while the sleeve pattern is a new one, and certainly draws the eye.
We’re not fussed on the grey side panels – it feels like one colour too many on an already busy shirt – but on the whole we think the design works, even though it shouldn’t. It’s a brash, bold and busy… a bit like Wind Street on a Saturday night, really. But unlike Wind Street on a Saturday night, we actually think this works, even though in many ways it shouldn’t. Little touches like the contrasting upper chest panels help split up the busy aspects of the jersey and make it hang together pretty well.
The alternate shirt is a whole other beast in the ‘eye-catching shirt’ stakes. Will you just take a look at that colour scheme for a minute? Yup, they’ve genuinely gone and stuck contrasting sky blue and lemon yellow on the same jersey… and yet… it kinda works, doesn’t it?
If anything, we think that this alternate shirt hangs together better than the home shirt – ironically the striking nature of the shoulder/sleeve design means there’s a bit less going on elsewhere, giving things more room to breathe.
First up, we know that your initial reaction on seeing the blue-and-yellow stripey madness is probably to recoil in horror… that’s pretty much what we did too, to be honest. But the more you look at it, the more it kinda works. There’s something vaguely nautical and beachy about it – like sitting out on a sunny afternoon in Langland.
If we’re being brutally honest, we’d have preferred the two sides of the jersey to match up, as we think blue with yellow looks far better than the yellow on blue, and we’d have preferred it if the diagonal stripes on the jersey front were perhaps toned down a touch too. We also think both new main sponsors – BT Sport on the home shirt and OSTCFX on the alternate – don’t exactly enhance the look of the jersey. Old sponsor nPower was great because the logo could be presented in a variety of colours and was totally inoffensive, whereas the colours here, particularly of the OSTCFX logo, really badly clashes with the rest of the design.
But in spite of that, we can’t help but like it – maybe the swirly bits on the jersey are having some sort of hypnotic-suggestive effect on us…
Anyone who was expecting the Ospreys to suddenly come over all conservative when they switched from Kooga to BLK was clearly kidding themselves, and while the Aussie firm has shown they can do restrained and classy when they want to, there’s clearly a fair bit of madness in the minds of their design team.
Every year the Ospreys shift more than double the combined number of replica shirts that the other three Welsh regions do, and we understand that the Ospreys shirts are the second-biggest sellers overall in the UK behind Munster. That’s a seriously impressive figure for a team that hasn’t exactly shone on the pitch in recent years, and has found European success elusive for their entire existence.
What that should tell us is that bold jersey designs capture the imagination, and the wallets, of fans. Whether these new BLK designs can continue that trend, we’ll see, but there’s no doubt that they won’t go down wondering – they’ve thrown all of their most bold and out-there ideas at these jerseys, and they’ve just about made it work.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: SH…NO GOOD… NO… YES… ARGH, YES, GOOD