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'I'd love to see that': Current and ex-Super Rugby stars want names on jerseys

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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Current and former Super Rugby stars say they would like to see player names feature on the back of playing jerseys in Super Rugby Pacific.

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Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall and former Blues hooker James Parsons threw support behind the concept, which has become commonplace in professional sport worldwide.

Teams competing leading sports competitions such as the NBA, NFL and Premier League have profited hugely off having the names of marquee players on the back of their playing jerseys, shirts and singlets for many decades now.

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What the All Blacks squad could look like halfway through Super Rugby Pacific | Aotearoa Rugby Pod
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What the All Blacks squad could look like halfway through Super Rugby Pacific | Aotearoa Rugby Pod

Even in rugby, the use of player names on the back of jerseys has been used by clubs in European competitions like the Premiership, as well as countries competing on the World Sevens Series circuit.

However, teams in Super Rugby is yet to adopt such a feature, which Hall believes could be a lucrative marketing tool.

“I’m a big advocate for American sports,” Hall, a five-time Super Rugby champion with the Crusaders, told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“If you look at a Tom Brady and the likes of those players, the really high-end NFL players, the amount of marketable money that they make for their clubs, just due to the fact of their jersey sales, is great.

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“I know for us as players, it’d be great to see that and being able to have fans that you can see just walking along the street and they’ve got your name on their back and it’s really cool to see.

“I’m not too sure if the [New Zealand] Rugby Players’ Association and New Zealand Rugby could collaborate in being able to get an idea if that could be done, because I know you can make really good money out of it.

“It’s been seen in the NFL, baseball, all over in America, and you see it in grounds, you see [fans] turning their back and putting their favourite players that they’ve got on the back of their shirts.

“For us as players, I know really enjoy it. I’d love to see that happen, and so it’s maybe something that can happen in the future, hopefully.”

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Parsons, the former Blues captain and centurion who now works as player services manager for the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association, said that previous discussions have been had about the idea of names on playing jerseys in Super Rugby.

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However, the former two-test All Blacks hooker told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod that those conversations fell flat for reasons unknown to him.

Nevertheless, Parsons added that he is also keen on the concept, provided the numbers on the playing jerseys remain unchanged, unlike in other sports where players get to choose the number they wear.

“I’m a fan of the names, but I’d like the numbers to remain. I wouldn’t want to go as far as guys picking their own number,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“As you know, I’m a traditionalist, so keeping the fabric of our game throughout its development would be key for me, but I think it’s a great idea.

“We see it time and time again, as you’ve both alluded to with the NBA and NFL. I’ve bought many a singlet and top to connect with the team or a certain player, so I think it’d be exciting.

“I know there’s been discussions many a time before about it, but it just hasn’t transpired, so it’s definitely something that we can put into the mixer as we look to move forward with Super Rugby and our other teams.”

Hall agreed with the assertion that the numbers on playing jerseys shouldn’t change, but noted that Super Rugby Pacific teams could go one step further and introduce throwback jerseys as another way to boost their profitability.

“The Warriors do it really, really well,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod of the New Zealand-based NRL club.

“I don’t know how many jerseys they have, they’ve got that many jerseys, but I loved seeing that heritage, that grand final jersey that they wore [last] weekend against the Roosters.

“Again, it’s something that you can connect back with the people that have gone [before you]. You look at the 2002 Warriors team and they can see that, and then the players are able to represent that knowing what jersey meant all that time ago.

“I’ve even seen on some social media sites, whether that be the Legend of Marty Banks or different Instagram handles, being able to see fans that have made heritage jerseys.

“I’ve even seen them as players and we’re like, ‘Man, those are really cool jerseys, we actually wouldn’t mind playing in those jerseys for a round or heritage round or whatever it may be’. I definitely think there is money to be made in that space.”

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