Costa Sports Logos: Alternate AFL and NRL sportslogos and footy jumpers

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Anthony Costa is a writer, designer and illustrator living in Melbourne, Australia. These alternate AFL and NRL football graphics are inspired by his love of heritage sports logos and uniforms. Got a comment or design project? Email Anthony at [email protected].

Interview with's Rob Meredith

November 8, 2011


afl teams

Arguably no one has done more to archive over 100 years of Aussie rules jumpers than Rob Meredith, the creator of the brilliant It's a fascinating and sorely needed graphic history of the Australian game. A man with a keen eye for what makes a classic jumper and a healthy distrust of the Illustrator Gradient Tool, Rob was kind enough to stop by and chat about the state of AFL strips.

Tell me how came about. What motivated you to archive the history of VFL/AFL uniforms?

In 1996 the AFL had the Centenary Celebrations, and as part of that, the recreation games. Today we would call them the first Heritage jumpers. I was surprised to see the Bombers run out in the jumpers of the Essendon VFA team, which were essentially the same, but had Red trimmings, which today we call collar, cuffs, and they also had Red re-inforcing down the middle of the lace-up jumper. When I checked my footy books for photos I found most jumpers used that round were incorrect in some aspect, so I ventured down the path of researching and re-creating them.

It seems amazing that someone from outside of the game's administration had to put together your archive. Generally speaking, has the game done a good job at documenting its aesthetic history? Do the clubs have all the information that you've assembled?

To me it seems the AFL's agenda is strictly revenue based. So anything that doesn't make money is not really given much importance at the AFL. Where the AFL think they can make a dollar, like Heritage jumpers, they try something, but overall they do a pretty poor job. That said, I know a few of the guys who work for the AFL in their history dept, so they are preserving stats and things of that nature, just not what footy looked like.

I love the detailed season by season templates you've added to your site. Who illustrated those?

Me. I used a clip art man in jocks, which I traced, then drew in the jumper, shorts and socks over the top. The ball I used a program called Vector Magic to trace, and the the boots come from a US Football template I have.

It seems that the construction of Aussie Rules jumpers has remained pretty basic. Most are essentially synthetic sacks with holes cut out of them. Can you see jumper design becoming more elaborate and high-tech in the coming years, similar to how Nike have crazied up College Football with their Pro Combat designs?

I would argue that has already begun. A lot of the new designs in NCAA are designed around making the uniforms a tighter fit, and also designed around patterns cuts. We see this in the Hawthorn Clash jumper, where the design continues to the back, which is where the front and back are actually sewn together. Same with the new Sydney jumpers, the cut of the jumpers determine where the White finishes and the Red starts. A main difference between us and gridiron is that we don't had pads under the jumpers. The rest of what we see is the options open to designers which come with the printed material. We've had it since the mid 90s, and whilst things got 'experimental' early on, with the Freo Away jumper of 98 and the even the Brisbane Clash of 2007, I would like to thing we've seen the end of 'gradient as a colour' with the most recent batches of jumper designs.

The numbers on the back of league jumpers don't seem to have changed much since they were introduced in 1912. It's amazing that clubs in all tiers of the sport still use the same basic rounded numbers. Any thoughts as to why this is? I would have thought that some more design sense could be applied here given that the numbers occupy over a quarter of the jumper's real estate.

I prefer our numbers to the North American system. TV is such an important aspect of our game these days, that you simply can't have clubs going out and getting some weird font no-one can read on TV. The font has changed ever so slightly, but as a traditionalist, that's one of those quirky things I like about the jumpers.

What's your take on the Western Bulldogs #hoopsareback campaign? Happy with their new jumper?

Love it. I hope they have some good years in it.

Geelong seems to have started a trend by adding a club logo to their right breast. To me it ruins the symmetry of the hoops jumper a little. Do you like it and can you see it catching on?

Well, for one I think StKilda would disagree, they've done it since the 1930s. However in terms of the printed jumpers having them on, I guess I am unfazed by it overall,as a trend, and slightly more critical in individual cases. EG Melbourne put their logo on their jumpers in 2004, and it just looked banged over the top. But their 2011 jumpers have it inside the yoke, and it looks much better. Geelong's does break up the band, and North's breaks up their stripe, and yet their respective sponsor logos are larger and do more of that than the club logos do.

What's your opinion on away jumpers? Personally I don't understand why it's so hard for each AFL team to have a predominantly white strip. Do you think away jumpers are needed?

No. I hate the idea. Personally, and I recognise this is becoming a less popular idea recently, I thought the AFL had it right from 1897 to 2007 when the rule was the club who created the clash is responsible for resolving it. So when West Coast came in they wanted Gold jumpers, but they had to wear Blue, even at Home when they played Hawthorn. As for clubs wearing White when it is not part of their club colours, if clubs want to do it, all power to them, but I am against forcing clubs to do it.

What do you think have been the best of the AFL's away jumpers? Are there any that could have become classics had the clubs stuck with them?

For mine, North's 2003 Away jumper was the best jumper they've had. I suppose I could say Brisbane's Melbourne Away jumper is better, but that's cheating, given it's based on Fitzroy's jumper. I would think that in my opinion, most Away jumpers are horrible, especially those that use gradient (where one colour fades into another colour).

Impressed with what the two new expansion clubs have cooked up uniform wise? It seems like they want to update the big monogram jumper for the new century. Have they been successful?

Nope. Looks like they needed those kids from Port Adelaide that have designed their Teal Planet jumpers. One of which is now the Home jumper. Suns Red with Yellow sides looks like a training jumper, and the two other ones with the wave look like they belong at the beach. There's no continuity, the wave doesn't match up front to back, and then there's the gradient thing, where one colour unnecessarily fades to another. Giants. The G is all the way on one side. And yet, on the Away it isn't. basically the Away is the Gold Coast Home jumper in Giants colours & logo. The AFL would have been better, and cheaper to let the public offer submissions. I've seen at least 10 better designs online for both than the ones they actually use

The WAFL and SANFL evolved their own jumper templates quite separately from the VFL's. State loyalties aside, who had the better jumpers pre AFL?

I always preferred the AFL, though I liked the Sturt jumpers, just because we never had a Sky Blue in the VFL/AFL. West Perth's Cardinal Red was always a good look, but I always saw the VFL jumpers as being the better. Maybe that was a state bias though. To me there was a lot of similarities. WAFL Growing up, Claremont looked like Richmond, South looked like South, East looked like Geelong, Subiaco looked like Hawthorn, Swans looked like Collingwood, and SANFL. Norwood looked like Melbourne, Glenelg looked like Richmond, Wests looked like Essendon, Souths looked like Carlton.

Overall how do you rate AFL logo design in comparison to other leagues around the world? Are club logos getting better?

Overall, average, individually, some are really good, some terrible. The new Richmond one is OK, the Melborne one is over-done, it looks like 6 people in a room all had different ideas and yet everyone got to include theirs. I like the new Dockers one. Simple and effective. Hawthorn looks good, West Coast looks good. As much as it pains me to say it, Collingwood's is iconic and one of the better ones. The new Brisbane one looks like a project for school Art class. Adelaide I like the wordmark, but the Crow head is horrible. Some are due for a change. Bulldogs will hopefully do something soon, and maybe even the Bombers are due for something new. 

I've often wondered who designed the 70s VFL logo. Do you know? It's such a simple and effective badge... really underrated.

I know there was a guy Jim McKay who was the VFL's guy who got a lot of ideas from the North American sports about how they branded themselves, but I wouldn't think he was actually the artist. It would be a great line of research to see who designed it. It's still used today in the old VFA-VFL, so it's stood the test of time.

Which AFL club needs the most urgent design makeover?

Well, I would have said the Bulldogs, but it's apparent they have already decided to change. Next I would suggest West Coast. I would prefer to see them in their 92 Premiership jumpers as their Home jumpers, and then a derivative of that as their Away jumper.

Best jumper in the AFL today/all time?

Something basic and classic. The old Carlton jumper was iconic and classic, and eminently hate-able. I say the old Carlton jumper because the logo was better than the rounded version of today. But best ever would be Essendon. Worn since about 1890, and still singularly identified as the Essendon brand. You can see a Black and White striped jersey or a Navy Blue jersey anywhere in the world and wonder if it is Collingwood, Carlton, Newcastle FC or Everton FC. But Black with a Red sash is an Essendon jumper. Has been since Albert Thurgood played for them. 

Is it the national duty of all Australians to wear their team's footy jumpers to ever conceivable international sporting event when traveling overseas?

Excellent question. Yes it is. And the more obscure the better. If one was in Pakistan, at the Kabaddi, or Turkey at the Kirkpinar oil wrestling, one has a duty to wear one's footy jumper on the off chance the footage ever gets home. Obviously, Test Criket, Rugby Internationals, Davis Cup Tennis, Olympic Games etc overseas, the footy jumper should be considered obligatory outer wear.

Sound fashion advice. Cheers Rob!

Got a comment or suggestion? Tell me on twitter: @CostaSports

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