This year’s ITM Cup is in full swing already, and as ever, the variety of NPC teams has provided us with an array of both lovely and loathsome shirts to get to grips with. Let’s take a look at some of our highlights…
Let’s get this out of the way… last year we had, to put it mildy, some words to say about the Canterbury NPC shirt from BLK. The Canterbury shirt is an iconic and storied design, and we didn’t take to kindly to BLK messing around with the formula in some misguided attempt to look modern, oh no…
Thankfully, they seem to have learned their lesson this time around, and, as we’ve come to expect from BLK recently, they’ve turned out a shirt that has the traditional hoops, without sacrificing the look and feel of a modern rugby shirt. Part of us would like to see the hoops be more over on the shoulders, but we’re splitting hairs so fine they can only be seen by chucking them in the Large Hadron Collider here – lovely stuff.
Ah North Harbour, how could we wait any longer to sample what bevy of wonders your inherently perfect colour palette and and general look and… oh… hang on a minute – what the fuck is this?!
Right, we’ll preface this by saying that, if you read last year’s ITM Cup round-up, or followed us on Twitter at that time, we had, to put it mildly, a little bit of a love affair with last year’s effort. It was the sort of rugby shirt that you’d want to elope with, were it not a rugby shirt as opposed to y’know, a person. It’s probably in our top 10 favourite shirts ever such is the love that we have for it, and such topping it this year was always going to be a big ask…
But this? Oh dear… oh no. For starters, they’ve taken the lovely black bar that ringed the chest last year, and pretty much doubled the size of it, and moved it down to incorporate the sponsor logo, making the damn thing look positively GIANT. And then they stuck a horribly out of place flower in the bottom left of the shirt. No. Just no.
One thing we do like, and you’ll spot a theme with this year’s Canterbury NPC shirts, is the sublimated names – it’s the clubs that make up the North Harbour Union in the maroon bands, and Harbour Blazers players in the black bit. It doesn’t do much for the look of the shirt, but it’s a nice touch regardless. Still though, North Harbour, how could you do us like this?
SHIT/GOOD RATING: WE’LL NEVER LOVE AGAIN
You could argue that Taranaki haven’t had a new jersey design in about five years, and frankly, that would be a very easy argument to win, because some collar variances aside, there’s been almost no change to the basic template in that time.
But when it’s this classy, distinctive and downright lovely, why on earth would you? Yup, there’s something about the bumblebee look that we can’t help but love, every damn year.
In fact though, this year’s shirt has a bit of difference to previous designs – it’s less hoopy in the sleeves, and also got some sublimated names, as with all the other Canterbury shirts this year – in this case it’s the names of all 78 Taranaki All Black representatives as well as the names of Taranaki Rugby Centurions and Taranaki Rugby Clubs.
Simple, classic, classy. Hard not to like it.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD
Oh… oh dear. Well… what can you say about this year’s Wellington Lions shirt beyond, “Jesus Christ, are they actually going with that? That’s real?! Fuck off…”
Yup, for some reason Wellington’s overall vibe this year would appear to be ‘Angry and slightly cross-eyed lion runs rampage through 1980s Tron-like landscape of weird blocks like an aggro Tony The Tiger’. Nope, us either.
There’s not really too much you can say about a shirt design this wantonly grotesque, asides from perhaps applauding the brass balls to put out something this ugly and expect fans and players to not be outside the clubhouse with torches and pitchforks. Wellington, BLK, you can do better than this.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GRRRRR… NO IT’S SHIT.
Last year, we had some words to say about Otago’s almost wantonly ugly shirt, and once again, they’ve not pulled any punches design-wise this year… and yet… why can’t we help but quite like it?
Maybe it’s the numbing effect of the clusterfuck of Wellington’s jersey, but this feels a whole lot better than last time around. The blue and yellow chevrons that dominated the shoulders and sleeves last time are relegated to an actually quite tasteful stripe this time around, and while we don’t really love the sublimation, it’s not the most ugly thing we’ve ever seen.
Again, there’s an obligatory namey bit, but at least here it’s relegated to the back, where you’ll find the names of all the players who’ve played 50 matches for Otago somewhere around the arse, which is a little bit strong if you ask us.
Is this the nicest jersey we’ve ever seen? Well, no. But we can’t help liking it. We feel strange and wrong.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD… WE GUESS?
Good old Auckland. If there’s one thing you can rely upon in the NPC, it’s that Taranaki and Auckland will always have tasteful, traditional looking jerseys, and so it is here.
You can also guarantee that said Auckland shirt will usually be blighted by an unnecessarily large and grotesque sponsor, and that’s pretty much the case here – could they not have snipped off the entirely unnecessary yellow and red bit on the bottom? Honestly…
As with Taranaki, it’s as you were, design-wise here, and that’s no bad thing. The wordy hoops are of course, in full effect – this time it’s the names of all the clubs in the Auckland Rugby Union – but it doesn’t look as unpleasant as it does on the North Harbour jersey. You might not feel the same seeing it up close, however.
Still, it’s a nice shirt, with a classic design. Good. Yes. Next!
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD
Oh Tasman… Tasman, Tasman, Tasman… What can you say? Last season BLK experimented with emblazoning a giant, fuck off shark on the front of the Makos jersey and well… it wasn’t very nice, was it?
Apparently though, it was felt that what was wrong with last year’s jersey was that the aforementioned fuck off shark just wasn’t quite noticeable enough and this year, they’ve gone HAM on the sharkiness, to inevitably shit effect.
The shame is, this would actually be a pretty nice kit without the shark – we like the contrasting coloured sleeves and the general colour scheme, though we’re still chuckling about the main sponsor’s insistence in promoting the fact that they supply ‘medium density fibreboard’ (what happens if you want small density fibreboard? Or large? WE MUST KNOW).
All in all then, a fairly inevitable grade for a hideously ugly shirt.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: SHIT
The sad thing about this Southland jersey is that if they’d toned things down 25% on the crazy front, we’d be slapping backs and handing out cigars to celebrate the birth of a beautiful new jersey.
It’s the 25% that kills ya.
If they’d have just left the maroon part of the jersey plain, this would have been a thing of beauty. Instead, we have what they’re calling a ‘Tonal Stag’ all over the front of the jersey. We’re not sure what a ‘Tonal Stag’ is, but honestly, look how grumpy he is. He’s no more happy to be there than we are to see him there, the poor bastard – set him free, Canterbury, set the Tonal Stag free…
For some reason they’ve also decided that the jersey would look even better if it looks as though it’s been left out in the elements for about five years. Faux-weathering reaches the rugby shirt world – saints preserve us.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: SHIT
Last year, Northland decided to emblazon the taniwha, the club’s mascot, on the front of their shirt. It wasn’t what you’d call a conventionally attractive shirt by any stretch of the imagination, but given the eyesore they’ve turned out this year, perhaps we were being a bit hasty.
See, last time around, at least the taniwha looked like a badass dragon, where as this year… well… let’s be honest, he looks like a comely Pokemon, beckoning you into his weird prison of blue stripes. It’s just… weird.
Again, this would be another pretty decent, if a touch plain, shirt without the taniwah, but if you’re going to do this kinda thing, at least make the thing look badass, yknow?
SHIT/GOOD RATING: SHIT