Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler believes the first ever alternate jersey in State of Origin history could provide his players with an “advantage” as they aim to defend the Shield against Queensland in 2019.
Fittler unveiled the new strip at The Star on Thursday night and was joined by current Blues Tyson Frizell, Jake and Tom Trbojevic, True Blues including Greg Alexander, Danny Buderus, Nathan Hindmarsh and Steve Menzies, NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden and NSWRL Chairman Dr George Peponis OAM.
The alternate strip, which was designed by Canterbury of New Zealand, is predominantly navy while respecting the state’s sky blue heritage in the chevrons and on the sleeves. It will be worn by players for the historic match in Perth in Game Two of next year’s Origin series.
“The fact is now you can get an advantage out of your jersey,” Fittler told NSWRL.com.au.
“Teams have obviously been working at ways to make them tighter.
“This jersey is as innovative as NSW and how we’re thinking and I think it’s the perfect fit.”
Fittler turned the series on its head in 2018 after blooding 13 new players over the course of the three games and trying different techniques to gain an edge, including tight-fitting jerseys that made it difficult for the Queensland players to grab on to.
The 2019 alternate strip has been designed to provide players with a similar advantage and includes external stretch tape at the back for strength and durability, and a raglan rear sleeve construction to reduce resistance through lateral arm motion.
The Blues coach said he was confident that purist fans would embrace the change, claiming there had been occasions in the past where the Blues had tinkered with the jersey without going so far as to release an alternate strip.
“You’ve always got to evolve without a doubt,” Fittler said.
“There have been other strips that have been used in the past.
“I’ve played in jerseys that were half dark with stripes and half sky blue.
“It’s just a matter of doing it for the right reasons … the fact we’re going to Perth for the first time - I’ve seen the venue where we’re playing, it’s sold out, so that’s great - and the strip looks awesome.
“I think at that venue at night it’s going to look absolutely brilliant.”
Fittler drove home to his players the importance of the jersey – both at state and club level – when they ended a four-year drought in this year’s Origin series, and he is confident they will back the move to wear an alternate strip for one game in 2019.
“To me Rugby League has always been about the jersey,” Fittler said.
“It’s the most important thing.
“Obviously it’s going to be contentious, and people are going to talk about it for different reasons, but it’s the first Origin game in Perth and what a great way to respect the situation and give it its first ever jumper.”