For the last few seasons, the Chiefs have taken a leaf out of the New Zealand Warriors’ book, and looked to incorporate traditional Māori-style art into the very fabric of their jerseys, with the art itself representing something significant to the franchise and its fans.
The 2016 shirts take this to another level, as the striking design that encapsulates the front of the jerseys gives life to the Māori saying stitched into the collar, He piko he taniwha – ‘Waikato of many chiefs. At every bend of the river there is a chief’.
We covered the details of exactly how this incredibly striking and unique design told the story of that phrase in our review of the home shirt, so we won’t go over the same ground again, as it’s identical to what we’ve got here.
Unlike the home shirt however, where the details of the Whatanoa gateway are depicted in striking yellow, red, grey and black, the away shirt instead opts to render the entire design in grey.
It creates a very different vibe to the home shirt – which is unabashedly bold and in your face. This feels a lot more demure – we’re loathe to call it restrained because there’s a massive, hugely detailed piece of Māori art covering the body of the shirt, but it certainly feels more subtle.
Subtle isn’t always bad, however, – the restrained, monochromatic feel to the body of the shirt gives the small flashes of colour that are present room to breathe, and really makes them pop from the rest of the design.
The striking badge and sponsor logo feel less lost in the patterns this time around, and we really like the contrasting yellow and red shoulder stripes here (the home shirt just had yellow ones). We really liked the contrasting stripes effects when Adidas used it on the Harlequins alternate and charity shirts this year, and it’s something we’d like to see used more.
It seems weird to say that a shirt covered in richly detailed traditional art feels subtle and restrained, but compared to the bombastic home shirt, this is definitely the case here. And while we really dug the primary design, we find ourselves liking the contrasts in this design a little more. Very cool.