The Auckland Nines tournament is not only the curtain raiser to the new NRL season and a two-day festival of short-form rugby league, it’s also a showcase for some of the most bold and unconventional jerseys in any code of rugby. The 2017 edition of the Nines is no different, so let’s take a look at what all the teams* will be wearing this weekend…
New Zealand Warriors
Where else could we start but with the tournament hosts? And let’s face it, Canterbury have never let the Warriors down when it comes to stealing the Auckland Nines show – and this year is no exception. The jersey pays tribute to the dramatic volcanic landscapes of New Zealand, with red hot lava bubbling underneath the Warrior logo carved in rock. Looking like some kind of hellish monster from ancient legend, this is a jersey that deserves to be worn for more than one weekend.
The Storm’s palette is always a fun one to play with, and it seems that ISC is making up for a lack of stormy lightning-bolt-ness in their first Storm regular season shirts by going overboard on the Nines design. So, we have a super cool lightning bolt chevron dividing up the sensible top from the crazy pink and purple storm clouds on the bottom. Brilliant.
Last year’s Nines champions fall short on the jersey front with this rather confused number. Given that it’s the Eels’ 70th anniversary year in 2017, we’d have expected something… well… a bit more eel-y? Instead we have something that’s caught between Marvel superhero and a Roman gladiator… and the no-nonsense ‘Parra 1947’ across the front aside, it’s a bit of a muddle.
We absolutely loved the outlandish 1990s throwback jerseys that the Panthers have gone with for this season, so by comparison the Nines jersey is a bit disappointing. It’s just an identical template to the regular season shirt, rendered in an admittedly rather fetching ‘Caffiene Free Coke’ colour scheme. We expect a bit better.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
The last time the Dragons went full dragon on their Nines jersey back in 2015, the results were bloody awful, but this year’s effort manages to take the same basic ingredients but with a much more successful result. The contrast between the red and black top half and white dragon and bottom half is really striking – even if the stylised dragon looks a bit like it was designed in MS Paint in 1994.
It wouldn’t be the Nines without someone going full beach rugby, would it? And this year it’s the turn of the Roosters. Celebrating Sydney’s legendary Bondi Pavilion – one of the most iconic and famous cultural icons of Aussie beach culture, you can almost smell the salt and sand looking at the light blue waves that makes up the bulk of the design. It’s ludicrously brash but that’s exactly what a Nines jerseys should aspire to.
Every year you get a couple of teams that pay tribute the significant influence that Polynesian culture has had on the city of Auckland, and this year the Tigers are doing just that – but with a different, more personal spin. Talk about getting into the spirit of the Nines. With the trademark orange and black take care of with the top chevron, the white canvas at the bottom was given over to Tigers prop and qualified tattoo artist Wes Lolo, who created a design that blended various traditional tapa patterns from Tonga, Samoa and his native Niue. Awesome, unique, and very in the spirit of the Nines.
Another X-Blades design, and another weird armour-based design for the Sharks. On the plus side, at least this one is sort of like ‘shark armour’ – the colours are very sharky, and the shapes on the front of the design sort of have a robo-shark vibe… maybe? We honestly don’t know to be honest – it’s a bit uninspiring though, just like the Eels’ design.
Another striking Nines jersey for the Green Machine, but unlike last year’s steampunk design, this one is a bit less garish, and a bit more subtle. It’s also a bit more confusing – we don’t really know what the pattern is supposed to represent, but the combination of the lime green, black and grey is cool and unusual – we like.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs generally keep things pretty safe as far as Nines jerseys go, but this year they’ve pushed the boat out with this strikingly modern abstract design. We really like the red stripe across the chest and the way it leads into the concentric circles around the Rabbitohs badge – one of the more memorable shirts in this year’s tournament.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles have had some pretty memorable designs in the last few years – who could forget their surfer dude design of two years ago – and this one is again pretty damn striking. We like the way the large eagle’s wing motif across the body is complimented by subtle tonal wings on the sleeves – it’s as close to clean and classy as these things get, but that’s no bad thing at all.
The Knights have gone all Tron with their 2017 jersey, with this striking geometric patterned design. We like the red/blue split down the left-hand side of the shirt, and again it’s bordering on the restrained as far as the Auckland Nines goes – it’s a really cool design, however.
North Queensland Cowboys
Now, there’s blandly subtle and classy, and then there’s just plain gorgeous, and the Cowboys Nines shirt is squarely in the latter category. Blending striking dark and pinstriped bright blue with a super cool geometric pattern, we love the way the stylised Cowboys logo dominates the design. It’s moody, sleek… and yet it still feels every bit a Nines shirt.
In their time with Nike, the Broncos generally went for Nines jerseys that kept thing very clean, very classy and very traditional, but now signed up with ISC, Brisbane have taken the gloves off and created a hugely memorable design for 2017. It’s another shirt that pays tribute to the tournament’s host city with a striking mint-coloured design complete with intricate pattern rendered in the Broncos’ classic maroon shade. It’s a stunning combo, and a stunning design in general.
It’s interesting that the Bulldogs’ 2017 jersey is the second one this year that features a prominent black and white photograph as part of the design. The plain white shirt is broken up by a striking diagonal jagged stripe – almost like the shirt has been torn open – to reveal a stripe of Bulldogs blue, set against a depiction of Belmore: the spiritual home of the Bulldogs. It’s a cool idea, and a memorable one at that.
Gold Coast Titans
The final jersey of our Nines round-up is a bit of a strange one. The Titans had a much-publicised split with troubled kit supplier BLK last month, and signed a three year deal with fellow Aussie firm Classic. A month is a short time to turn a new design around, and so it seems that Classic have broadly replicated the armour-based design that BLK had revealed before the split happened. And that’s no bad thing – it’s a very cool design, and unlike the X-Blades designs, at least the Titans have an excuse for the armour!
Well there you have it, 16 teams, 16 jerseys and all kinds of crazy and unique designs – let’s hope the rugby is as entertaining as the shirts are!
Words: Adam Rees