Choose your own clothes to back All Blacks

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2011

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OPINION: Knitters of the nation unite and rip to shreds the replica rugby jersey market.

Come on you Kiwi mums, grandmas and sensitive, new-age guys – prove you're purlers in every sense of the word.

With three weeks to go to the Big Show, the rhythmic click-clack of knitting needles should be heard the length and breadth of this fair land. Wouldn't it make a pleasant change from Christchurch's current soundtrack – buildings being felled by the wrecker's ball.

So, white-collar workers of the world get busy. It shouldn't take too long to whip up an all black jumper complete with white wing tip, a Dan Carter doll, some Sonny Bill Williams mittens and a dog collar in honour of the team's practising Christians.

Now, we do like to spin a yarn, but it's not this column's place to incite a consumer boycott. But wasn't an unnamed German-based apparel multinational acting out of sheer corporate greed in slapping a $220 price tag on their new All Blacks jersey? That's twice the price being listed on international websites.

Isn't that barefaced effrontery for a firm of any stripe – let alone three of them?

Why, for $220 a New Zealand motorist could darn near fill their tank with petrol or buy a week's worth of milk for the family.

But there are homespun alternatives, as always. As John Campbell pointed out on Campbell Live this week it's much cheaper to buy retro replica All Black jerseys.

Do you have to be wearing current clobber, cobber?

If you really want to keep faith with the spirit of New Zealand rugby, just rock up to Eden Park in a 1905 test jumper.

What's preventing any self-respecting supporter from sporting a home-knitted black and white scarf emblazoned with individual All Blacks' names?

Or will those International Rugby Board alickadoos be deploying squads of fashion police, feeling fans' collars and checking for official merchandise labels?

I've always thought wearing replica jerseys was a dodgy business at best. It looks ludicrous to see a Dan Carter No10 jersey stretched across the midriff of a middle-aged bloke who's obviously spent most of his adult life imbibing the products of another All Black sponsor we won't mention.

Call me old school, but shouldn't All Blacks jerseys be reserved for that select band skilled enough to earn them? Why should we be able to buy off the peg the exact same jersey Richie McCaw and his men wear?

We can only hope this latest kerfuffle isn't the thin edge of the wedge – if you get my drift. Cynical football teams overseas change their shirt sponsor each year, thus forcing fans who don't want to laughed at in the pre-match pub environment, from coughing up for the latest accessory item.

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For entirely ancestral reasons, I support English football teams from Morecambe – better known as the Naples of the North – and Middlesbrough, a Teesside tourist magnet.

I haven't checked Morecambe's couture this campaign but they're bound to be advertising one potted shrimp company or another.

The Boro once signed up a satellite navigation company as a shirt sponsor, in the vain hope their players would find the elusive net and that fans wouldn't all rush for the same nearest exit. They're now being backed by a financial company – but still can't afford a decent striker.

If I was of half a mind (which most days would be an improvement) to buy a Boro jumper, I'd invest instead in a vintage edition. There's a thriving company in England's northeast turning out timeless tops – including the handsome hooped version from Jackie Charlton's 1970s tenure – unsullied by sponsors' logos.

Perhaps there's an opportunity here for a phoenix (that's a small p, in case you're already instructing the lawyers, Terry Serepisos) to rise from Lane Walker Rudkin's ashes.

How hard would it be to turn out some rugged rugger jumpers in black and white, with leather shoulders and bootlaces in lieu of buttons?

You could even add a silver fern with a couple of tweaks – a red stamen perhaps or green leaves – to circumvent copyright complaints.

I can see it now – a cottage industry working around the clock, and as a novelty for the modern-day sports apparel trade – staffed by people working just eight hours a day on above-award wages.

We could always take a leaf from the English Rugby Union's book and turn up to All Blacks games in our alternate strip – white.

Black's an intimidating colour on the field – especially if you're staring down an Ali Williams haka. But it makes for a drab sight in the stands. It's like watching 50,000 mourners at a funeral.

White is the new black. Ask Ryan Nelsen and his New Zealand team the impact it had seeing a sea of white in Westpac Stadium before their World Cup qualifying win over Bahrain in 2009.

But if we really want to replicate our finest rugby hour – the 1987 World Cup victory – then we should rock up to the 2011 tournament dressed as our predecessors were then: men in Canterbury colours – red and black Swanndris – women in leg warmers. Both sexes shrouded in ski jackets.

The only All Black jerseys back then were worn by David Kirk and his 14 mates on the field – and the men on the reserves bench (though I'm sure a trawl through the sepia tone images would reveal Richard Loe sporting a Swanndri at some point).

- The Press

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