Why it’s time for the AFL to bring back the Heritage Round

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The Brisbane Lions training in their 2006 Heritage Round guernsey, inspired by the Brisbane Bears' 1991 away jumper. Photo: Steve Ripper

For those that don’t remember the short-lived yet well-received Heritage Round of the AFL, here’s the gist: for one round each year from 2003 to 2007 the teams of the AFL wore replicas of old club guernseys to celebrate the rich history of each club.

Some clubs had seen huge changes in their time in the league; for example, the Sydney Swans were originally South Melbourne, and the Brisbane Lions were a merger of the Fitzroy Lions and the Brisbane Bears. However, after the 150 Years of AFL celebrations in 2008, the Heritage Round did not return. I think there are a few reasons why it is time that the AFL revisited the idea.

Brad Sheppard wearing West Coast’s 2018 home jumper, based on their 1988 to 1994 jumper.
Photo: Flickred, CC

Firstly, in recent years, teams have began opting to wear heritage-inspired commemorative guernseys to celebrate dates in their own histories. In 2016, North Melbourne wore a replica of their 1999 Away jumper printed with that year’s team to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their last premiership. Last year, in Round 20, Sydney wore a white jumper with a red sash and collar to celebrate South Melbourne’s second premiership. Premiership anniversaries could be a theme worked into the Heritage Round, as they are becoming a regular celebration.

Secondly, there are already celebration games where the AFL allows clubs to use alternate guernseys. The most obvious example is the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, which started in 2005. From 2014, each club wore an Indigenous-inspired alternative jumper to celebrate Australia’s rich Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander history. Some other examples include the Pride Game held between Sydney and Saint Kilda from 2016 to 2018 which introduced player numbers in the colours of the Pride Flag, and in recent years the ANZAC Round matches have seen clubs wear themed alternate jumpers. Each of these rounds and games celebrates Australian history, so why not celebrate the history of the game itself?

Cyril Rioli wearing a Hawthorn training shirt based off their 2003-04 Heritage Round guernsey, which was derived from their 1925-32 jumper.
Photo: Raider of Gin, CC

Finally, many teams are using old designs as away, alternative or training jumpers because their fans like them. Clubs depend so much on their fans that they love to make them happy, and many clubs have added old designs to their current wardrobes to add a touch of nostalgia to their appearances. In 2018, West Coast returned to their home jumper design used from 1988 to 1994. North Melbourne used an inverse of their original 1925 to 1932 Victoria Football League jumper as an alternate guernsey in 2018, and returned to their 1995-2002 away jumper in 2019. The Brisbane Lions even create a Hall of Fame jersey annually and often borrow from previous designs, especially old Fitzroy and Bears designs. The fans want to see these jumpers, why not make it an official round?

It seems that both the fans and the clubs of the AFL want to celebrate the rich history of each club by seeing and wearing the old, outdated and sometimes outlandish designs once donned by the teams they support. It is time for the AFL to really consider bringing back the Heritage Round.    

To see your team’s old or Heritage Round jumpers, visit http://www.footyjumpers.com/.

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