The illustrator of Oz

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  • One of our inspirations for this site and others we’ve been involved with has been Footy Jumpers, a comprehensive history of kits worn in Australian rules football. It’s run by Rob Meredith, who generously agreed to an interview, which we hope you enjoy. Thanks to Thanks to Rob for his time and the permission to use his images

I presume the love of guernseys/jumpers came at a young age? Did you draw them as a child or create your own?

Yes, as far back I can remember I was drawing the different team jumpers. I used to get a new set of Textas (markers) for Christmas every year because I’d used up the main colours in the ones from previous years. I drew the VFL jumpers, as well as created my own leagues with their own jumpers. 

Was graphic design something you had got into independently and then decided to start a site? When did FJ begin?

Footyjumpers began initially as a complaint against the AFL’s version of jumpers for the 1996 Centenary Celebration games (commemorating 100 years of Australian football).

Having been a bit of a history buff I’d noticed the Essendon jumper they used was actually the jumper of the Essendon A team, who were a hated neighbour and who had merged with North Melbourne.

It turned out all the jumpers they produced were incorrect in some way. Initially I contacted publishers and authors to write a book documenting the different designs over the years, and eventually a friend convinced me I should create the images and put them into a webpage and first, which eventually became the website.

Graphics were originally done in MS Paint, and I taught myself to use Illustrator to make them look better.

Excerpt from Essendon section on FootyJumpers.com

Did you think, when you started the site, that the amount of data covered would be as great as it is now, with completed club galleries, season-by-season galleries and even Melbourne Cup winning silks?

No, I had thought it would take five or six trips to the State Library and the whole thing should be completed. It took five-to-six years to research and complete, on a part-time basis.

Do you enjoy the fact that there are one or two variations for each team every year or does the workload give you headaches?

The template variations don’t really cause me that many headaches, it’s the complicated designs that are the main problem, particularly the Indigenous Round jumpers. 

Special-edition Brisbane Lions and Greater Western Sydney jumpers

Can you outline the troubles you’ve had with representing sponsors’ logos and how you’ve dealt with that, and also the use of your imagers in AFL publications? 

At first the AFL told me they did not want me to show any AFL IP on my site. This was when I had a plan of showing the jumpers with AFL and sponsors’ logos on them, so I drew the designs without those logos.

This then changed to them turning a blind eye to the site, with them using it to approve the designs for Heritage Rounds in the early-to-mid 2000s. As far as theft of the IP, I would say it still belongs to them, so there’s really not a lot I could do to complain about their use of the images I’ve created, however, the AFL website has used images from my website to promote various marketing initiatives.

The images of jumpers were also used in books published by Fremantle Media, who advised they were given the images by the AFL.      

The 2011 AFL Grand final, between Collingwood and Geelong

Regarding AFL jumpers in general, most of the visitors to my site are soccer fans and are conditioned to expect a team to change colours for the slightest clash (or even when there’s no clash).

However, in Australia it only seems to happen when it’s unavoidable. Has this ever caused problems in a game where a player or official has confused one team for another?

Occasionally, through the history of the game there have been issues with uniforms clashing. Geelong released a new uniform in 1912 that apparently confused for Collingwood, and therefore wore clash jumpers the next few times they played. Carlton wore sashes in a few games against Fitzroy in the early part of the 20th century as well.

More recently, the clash jumpers have caused a problem, where Carlton played Port Adelaide and their clash uniform was more like Port Adelaide’s than perhaps their traditional uniform had been. This is mostly due to the clash uniforms being in club colours, and that because they find these sell better than jumpers in non-club colours. It appears the AFL are more interested in merchandise sales revenue than resolving clashes. 

Finally, what are your favourite and least favourite all-time AFL jumper?

My all time favourite is probably the Footscray jumper that the Western Bulldogs wear today.

It was the result of a competition in 1901, when the club asked for submissions from the public to design the new jumper. Ten entries were recorded, and no record of a prize being given has ever been found.

It is concluded that the committee did not approve any of the entries and went with a jumper of their own design. They have changed it for colour TV, but returned to it only recently, blue with red and white bands.

Worst, I would say any jumper with a gradient, where one colour fades into another, and any jumper with some sort of animal or bird on it. The West Coast Eagles had a clash jumper that had both of these laws.

I’d also add another criteria – any jumper which is just another manufacturer’s template produced in club colours. Hawthorn had a recent clash jumper which was an adidas soccer jersey in club colours. In this case, they changed the club colours from brown and gold to white, brown and an old gold. It’s also one of the worst I’ve seen.

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