Rugby: A Change to Green Jerseys Will Strip Highlanders of Identity

Jeff CheshireAnalyst IIMay 27, 2011

Jeff Wilson wearing the Highlanders traditional colours of blue, gold and maroon.
Jeff Wilson wearing the Highlanders traditional colours of blue, gold and maroon.Michael Bradley/Getty Images

Yes you read right. The Highlanders are believed to be considering a change of their playing strip to light green. 

Although nothing has been officially announced yet, the franchise has confirmed they are looking at changing the colour of their playing strip and have also confirmed a major announcement will take place on Monday. Sources indicate that this new strip will be light green, as was reported by Steve Hepburn in the Otago Daily Times on May 27.

The move has said to further acknowledge the "new Highlanders" culture in the deep south. This refers to the major changes that have happened in the past year, with new management, new coaches, a bunch of new players, a new stadium and a new team culture. 

But does this warrant a jersey change?

The reasoning behind wearing blue, gold and maroon was to represent the three provinces (Otago, Southland and North Otago) that joined to form the Highlanders. These colours have since become synonymous with the team and Highlanders fans proudly wear these colours not just to the games, but around the provinces too. 

It is true that less than half of the players in the Highlanders squad this year come from outside the region, possibly a reason for the change of colour. But does that really matter?

The Highlanders represents much more than simply the players of the three provinces cited above. They represent the fans and every player in the south who plays the game of rugby at all levels, striving to break into a higher team, and eventually the Highlanders. As well as this, they are carrying on the legacy of all who came before them and look to build on the traditions that have formed the proud franchise.

The fact that so many of the players have come from outside the franchise is irrelevant.

If anything it should be the players who adapt to the traditions and culture of the Highlanders, not the other way around.

And to say that the other changes in the Highlanders should mean a change in colours is also absurd.

While things are going to change in a franchise in any sport, the team colours should always stay the same.

Imagine telling the All Blacks that they were now going to wear blue. Or Manchester United that they were going to wear green. Or the Boston Celtics that they would wear yellow. It just wouldn't happen.

The team colours become synonymous with a franchise and part of its traditions and should be left untouched.

While the design of the uniform may vary over the years, the same basic colours are always used as they are what the fans and public can identify with their team.

And light green, of all colours. What on earth is the connection between the Highlanders franchise and the colour light green?

It makes no sense whatsoever. The only feasible reason comes in that it has been seen as an opportunity to sell more jersey's by making them more fashionable. But even then, how many Highlanders fans are actually going to go out and buy a jersey they don't identify with?

And if they don't, who will? You certainly won't find many fans of other franchise racing out to buy the new Highlanders jersey.

Certainly everyone I have talked to about the idea seems against it and many of them only take casual interest in the side.

Having lived in the Dunedin, the heart of Highlanders country, for my whole life, I feel I can justifiably say that the decision will not go down well with the public. And if the franchise has any sense, they will listen to what their fans are saying, although it wouldn't be the first time they've gone against public opinion.

But the facts are, with a major announcement imminent on Monday, one would have to think that the decision has already been made. While there will be some who support the idea, it will be a decision that won't be accepted by many. Changing the colours of the Highlanders will change the identity of the team and in turn, the identity of rugby in the south.


*For more information about the Highlanders colour change, see Steve Hepburn's article from today's Otago Daily Times: Is Green the New Blue and Gold?