To put it mildly, the 2015 season was one to forget for the Newcastle Knights – any year where you finish rock bottom of the NRL table, sack your coach and end up drastically overhauling your squad has probably not gone to plan, let’s face it… But 2016 is a new year, a new coach, new players and new optimism… even if the shirt is very familiar.
When ISC took over the Knights contract in 2013, the Aussie supplier returned to the unconventional vertically striped design that the club had worn between 1997 and 2000, and they’ve kept faith with this motif ever since, with very little variation.
And if you don’t mind a dollop of Crystal Palace in your rugby shirt, it’s a very cool, very individual design, with the only change to the 2015 vintage being the new standard ISC stitched style collar.
Compared to some of the shirts the Knights had to endure in the years before ISC, it seems churlish to complain about what is a very lovely shirt. But at the same time, familiarity breeds contempt somewhat, and we’d like to see ISC mix it up a bit next time – maybe by harking back to something more informed by the Knights’ original 80s look, as the 2015 Heritage design did.
If there’s no real change with the 2016 home shirt, the same can’t be said of the away which is all new for this season, and rather striking to boot. Whereas last season’s change shirt was a nod to the rounded chevron motif of the 2003-era jersey, this one is modelled on the striped shirt the club wore during their successful period between 2000 and 2003.
And what a beautiful design it is, too. Again, the vertical stripes are a bit out of the ordinary for rugby in either code, but they’re rendered here in gorgeous style – the red pinstripes dividing the blue and white stripes in such a unique, classy way.
We like the way the red and the blue segments have been given texture here with a series of even thinner contrasting pinstripes – it’s a nice way to set it apart from the original version.
Two shirts that are ostensibly very similar then, but one that’s perhaps getting a little long in the tooth, while the other feels fresh, unusual and ultimately very classy. Nevertheless, the Knights are blessed with two of the cooler shirts in the NRL – time will tell if that has any impact on their on-pitch fortunes.