As the only non-Australian NRL franchise, the New Zealand Warriors were always going to stand out. In recent seasons however, the Aucklanders haven’t been doing too much to stand out on the field – failing to trouble the top half of the NRL end of season standings since their 2011 run to the Grand Final. Instead, the Warriors have had to be content with standing out from the crowd with some of the most radical and eye-catching jersey designs this side of Stade Francais.
But while the Warriors have a reputation for churning out hipster jerseys of the most batshit insane variety, the club usually reserve those for one-off or special editions, and the regular home and away shirts have generally been rather plain, predominantly black affairs (the were previously blue). Indeed, last season’s efforts from Canterbury were probably the most eye-catching basic jersey pair the club has had in some time, incorporating much more red and a stylised chevron that resembled the eyebrows of the Warriors club crest.
This season sees the Warriors celebrating 20 years since the clubs formation and inclusion in the NRL, and as such it’s very fitting that they should have a stylish, modern and utterly gorgeous jersey to go with it, complete with commemorative ’20 Years – 1995-2015′ logo about the Warrior badge.
Continuing from last season, there’s a great deal of red used as a secondary colour here, and that’s no bad thing at all – black and red is a fabulous combo, and is damn hard to get wrong. What’s changed this year though is the white… or rather the lack of it. Instead, the third colour used is a very light silver, and that’s no coincidence – carrying on from last year, we again have a stylised chevron here, but this year we have two silver and red ferns forming the V shape. It’s a nice little nod to the club’s position as the only Kiwi representative in NRL, but does so in a way that doesn’t compromise the clean simplicity of the design.
Round the back, things are kept clean and simple, with a Warrior face on the back of the collar and the red piping and sleeve cuffs from the front continuing. There is one fairly big but quite subtle bit of sublimation here however, in the shape of a ruddy great Warrior face that covers the entire back of the shirt. If we’re being honest, we think it looks a little bit naff and unnecessary on such a clean, simplistic design, but on the plus side it’ll be almost completely obscured by jersey numbers on the field.
While the home shirt keeps things in the firm ‘evolution from last season’ stakes, the alternate is a definite break from the norm. While pretty much all recent Warriors alternate shirts up to and including last season’s have been white, Canterbury has chosen to mark the Aucklanders 20th Anniversary with this incredibly lovely grey and black affair.
The top half of the shirt is the same as the home design, with the fern chevron acting as a breaker between that and the lovely light grey bottom half. It ties in really nicely with the silver of the fern, and gives the whole shirt a vaguely utilitarian, industrial look that we really like.
Round the back, we see that the grey takes up the vast majority of the design, keeping the black areas restricted to the sleeves and the top of the chest/shoulder panel. Grey, black and red are such a nice combination, we’re not sure why more clubs don’t utilise some combination of the three – some people think grey jerseys are frightfully dull, and we can see their point, but this lighter shade is a whole other animal in our mind.
At the top of this review we mentioned that the Warriors reputation for eye-catchingly gaudy and bonkers jerseys was mainly the result of their one-off and special edition shirts, and this year’s Heritage jersey reinforces that particularly trend in the most jaw-droppingly insane style possible.
Sweet Christmas! Yup, this year’s Heritage shirt is going HAM on the 20th Anniversary commemorations, with a wealth of interesting (and totally bonkers) features that reward the keen-eyed jersey appreciator.
The basic design again draws heavily on Maori heritage – we’ve seen this before on the ‘Te Toki Pounamu’ 2012 Heritage jersey, and also the ‘Tangaroa’ shirt from this year’s Auckland 9s, but the effect here is perhaps the most striking yet.
The wood-effect here is designed to look as though the shirt has been ‘carved out of native timbers’ and these carvings tell a story of the Warriors franchise past and present. The wood represents ‘hardness and strength’ and the carving is symbolic of the way a ‘player is shaped by the coaches, the players, the club and those around him’. Er, okay…
There are three carved warriors on the jersey one of the front, which represents the 2015 side, one of the lower back, which represents the first team to ever take the field for the Warriors, and third on the upper back. The three together are designed to represent the past, present and future of the franchise.
Behind the main warrior on the front there’s also a second warrior logo in green, which is designed to represent the warriors ‘whanau’ (or family) – not just the players’ actual family, but also the fans, sponsors and everyone involved at the club. It sits behind the main warrior and ‘breathes life’ into the main figure, emphasising how the warrior cannot exist without the support of the whanau.
Is all of that a bit hokey and cheesy? Yes, undoubtedly. Do we still like it, and love the sheer amount of thinking and detail that’s gone into it? Damn right.
The most striking facet of the rear of the jersey is the scrawl of names in the centre. These are the names of every player to have played for the first grade team in the 20 years leading up to the 2015 season – 192 names in all. The wood pattern here is also designed to give the list of names the vibe of an honours board in a clubhouse – a nice touch.
While the main elements of the jersey are pretty obvious, there are all manner of subtle carvings that you’d have to be an expert in traditional Maori art (or read a press release, ahem…) to notice and understand. The mangopare (hammerhead shark) features heavily and captures the essence of the Maori proverb ‘Kia mate ururoa, koi mate wheke’ – which mean ‘to be like the shark not the octopus which surrenders at the first sign of difficulty or resistance’. That seems a bit harsh on the octopus to us, but there we are.
Also featured throughout are the carvings are ‘korus’ representing growth, life, movement and the free flowing style of play that the team aims to bring to the field. We guess this season will be the proof of that particular pudding.
You’re perfectly entitled to dismiss all this as pointless marketing guff and appreciate that this is a magnificently bonkers triumph/car crash shirt purely on its visual merits. We don’t look at it that way however – the sheer thought and care that’s gone into such minutiae on this shirt is genuinely impressive, both in the concept and the execution.
We’re often asking for designers and clubs to put a bit more thought into their designs, but we certainly can’t say that here – the 2015 Heritage jersey tells a story of the club’s history and philosophy, and that’s something to be applauded.
Combined with the two simple but lovely basic home and away shirts, the Warriors and Canterbury have produced a trio of shirts that are a fitting tribute to the club’s 20th Anniversary.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD