The Māori All Blacks are one of the oldest and most storied representative sides in world rugby. The Natives, as they were first known, began playing fixtures all the way back in 1888, and they were actually the first New Zealand team to wear the famous black jersey. The Māori are a team that invariably showcases the next generation of All Black greats, and as a result, they deserve a shirt that’s as unique and interesting as they are…
We last looked at a new Māori All Blacks shirt back in 2014, ahead of their two-test tour of Japan. In creating that jersey, Adidas carried on the groundbreaking work they began with the stunning 2014/15 Chiefs shirts by creating a ‘tāhuhu kōrero’ (theme) that blended traditional Māori imagery with traditional Japanese iconography.
For 2016, the Māori All Blacks will be venturing outside of the Southern Hemisphere for the first time since 2013, and to Europe for the first time since 2012, with scheduled games against the USA, Munster and Harlequins this November – and the tāhuhu kōrero used this time reflects that transcontinental adventure.
The focal point of this year’s Māori All Blacks shirt is tangaroa, the Māori god of the sea, who’s imposing face dominates the centre of the jersey – a suitable theme for a team that will be crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans this season.
Surrounding the tangaroa are swirling patterns called kowhaiwhai – these represent tidal flow, movement, strength, determination, power and speed. They also represent the style of free flowing rugby that the Māori All Blacks are famous for playing. A closer look at the background reveals a pattern of scales, which are designed to represent the sharks that reside in tangaroa – the mako, mangopare (hammerhead) and mangotipi (pointer shark)
But that’s not even all – take a closer look at the tangaroa head, and you might be able to see that the ‘tongue’ is actually an ornate waka paddle – paddles used to propel traditional Māori canoes. This paddle symbolises the team rowing together in one direction with one purpose.
Some people might get cynical about designs that come complete with detailed, multi-point themes or stories behind them, and dismiss it as overblown marketing nonsense used to hawk rugby shirts – if that’s you, fair enough, that’s definitely one way to look at it.
But when you look at the thought, care and research that has gone into a design such as this, one that honours a culture in a way that’s both intricate and deep… we truly find it hard to be cynical. This is an awesome jersey that’s worthy of the heritage of the Māori All Blacks.