Last year’s 10th Anniversary season turned out to be a pretty miserable one for the Western Force, with the Perth-based franchise winning just three games all year, and finishing rock bottom of the overall Super Rugby standings on points difference. It was an anniversary to forget, then, and one they’ll be looking to banish memories of in 2016 with a brand spanking new home and away kit from BLK.
Perhaps the only positive thing about last season’s Western Force team was the rather fetching, subtle 10th anniversary shirts, which took the large club crest black swan motif that’s been a feature of Force designs for some time and made it a lot more abstract and subtle. This year however, the swan is back with a bang and well… eh…
It’s not bad looking though, and the way it’s been done looks a lot better than some previous attempts – you can even argue that the swan on the jersey has become something of a trademark of the Force in their short lifetime… and yet… we’re just a little bored of it now. Pretty much every Super Rugby shirt we’ve seen this season has demonstrated that this is a league where the teams aren’t afraid to play with their jersey designs to try something bold and different, and the Force just seem to be slightly hamstrung by always including the same old swan in the same position every season.
Just look at the Melbourne Rebels – they’ve barely been around five minutes but last season they took the decision to completely alter their primary look and break the dull hegemony of blue-shirted Aussie teams… and the results were pretty spectacular. So why not try something similar for the Force? If they like the black swan so much, why not go black instead of blue? Or yellow, the team’s fourth colour?
But that’s an extreme idea that would be pretty hard to push through, but that doesn’t really matter, as we think the blueprint for the future might have already been set out in this jersey… This year’s design is unusual in its use of a single white shoulder and sleeve on the right hand side. It’s striking, distinctive and above all looks very cool indeed – so why not make that the new look for the Force from now on?
The reverse also looks great on the alternate shirt, and as with last season’s design, the black swan against the white body of the away shirt just seems to work better here, too. We’re also not 100% sure why the gaps in between the ‘feathers’ of the badge have been filled with a grey fade on the away and not the home either, but we think it looks rather good, and gives the bottom half of the jersey a more settled feel on the whole.
We also like the way the fade has been continued around the back of the jersey, but we suppose it’s a little much to ask for this look to be paired up with some black shorts, which we think would have looked pretty damn fine, and kinda reminiscent of the superlative Romania away shirt BLK did for the World Cup.
So, how do you solve a problem like Western Force? Well, maybe ‘problem’ is a bit harsh. We don’t dislike either of these shirts, and there are actually some nice design ideas here we’d like to see taken forward – namely the single-shoulder contrast colour motif. However, there’s a definite feeling of sameyness with this year’s jersey, and the problem all leads from that black swan.
We loved last year’s design because it minimised the impact of a slightly too familiar concept, while still making it feel like a Force shirt, but its return this time really has made us feel like it has had its day. It’s limiting what the designers can do creatively with the shirt, and making all the team’s shirts feel a bit too similar for our tastes. If the club wants to move forward with a cool, unique visual identity, we think the time has come to either come up with something totally new, or ditch the swan and embrace the cool distinctive look of this year’s shirt.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Good, but it’s time for a change!