An update to James Dann’s groundbreaking 2016 investigation, now with 25% more shirts.
It has been three years since the first Warriors Jersey Power Rankings appeared on The Spinoff, and a lot has changed in that time. They qualified for the finals for the first time in close to a decade, lost their best-ever player to a club trapped in perpetual scandal, and saw their captain win the Dally M medal. They also managed to release 13 more jerseys. That means another chance for me to fire up The Spinoff Patented Steam-Punk Power Ranker and bestow an official, arbitrary number upon a baker’s dozen (or should that be butcher’s dozen) new kits.
The Warriors have kicked off their 25th season after a number of ups and downs. Probably more downs, to be honest. Since 1995, the Warriors have been known for their unpredictability, their thrilling highs and depressingly common lows. The same mercurial nature has applied to their many uniforms. They’ve run out in almost 60 different outfits over the years, and in this article I will attempt to power-rank all of them.
Through the dark times, Warriors faithful have kept believing. They’ve also kept buying, and so the Warriors have kept releasing. In 2013 there were seven playing strips – which would have set a truly committed fan back around $1300. Those heady days are over, with Canterbury now rolling out just five, sometimes six shirts a year. Despite pumping out more jerseys than they do promising young backs, the club has thus far resisted the truly soul-destroying spectacle of the movie tie-in strip; let us hope that continues for as long as possible.
A few ground rules before we start – I am including only strips in which the Warriors first team have played a regular season or post-season game. This excludes the under-20s, NSW Cup, and any training jerseys. If there is little real variation between years, except for small changes to logo, I’ve grouped these shirts together. If I’ve missed any jerseys, then do get in touch. I’ve searched high and low for information, and am grateful for the nzwarriors.com forums for detailed information on the different variations, as well as pictures of some of the more obscure shirts. I’ve also scoured TradeMe for images of some of the harder-to-find strips, and am always searching for better pics – so if you have a 2008 heritage strip just lying around, do send us a photo.
The Warriors have had five uniform suppliers since their inception; Canterbury in 1995, Lenco in 1996, Nike from 1997 to 1999, Puma from 2000 to 2008, and Canterbury again since then.
1. 1995-96 Home
It’s hard to start anywhere else except the very beginning. This is the iconic Warriors top; the one they wore out onto the field at Mt Smart for their first match against the Broncos in 1995. Simple green and red curves on a strong blue background; a white neck with a red collar. It must have surely been a coincidence that the colours matched so well with their main sponsor, DB Bitter.
Made by Canterbury, it had a lot in common with the great league shirts that Canberra, Penrith, Manly and the gang wore in the 80s and 90s. Wear one of these to a game and you’ll have made a ton of friends before the first whistle has even blown. A reflection of its iconic status, this strip has been re-made five times, for the 10th, 15th and 20th anniversaries of the club, as well as the 2017 heritage strip, and the 2019 home kit.
2. 2019 Home
It might seem a bold call to put this year’s strip straight into second place, only behind the kit to which it is a homage, but I think it deserves it. Though it, like many of the heritage strips, looks to the famous Auckland Warriors debut season, this isn’t something for a one-off match. This is the new home strip. Blue, green and red are the colours of the Warriors again, and judging by some of the support that has been shown for this decision, the return to the original colours could be a permanent one. The strip itself has learnt from the multitude of other attempts, and improved on all of them. In spite of all the colours and curves, it still maintains an elegant simplicity. The Vodafone logo sits nicely at the centre of the chest, like it’s the arc reactor on Iron Man’s armour. Little details, like the colour bands at the end of the sleeves, and the moving of the CCC logo to the top of the shoulder, show that a lot of thought and respect has gone into this design. Bravo to all involved.
UPDATE: The Warriors played their first game of the season in this strip, the day after the Christchurch mosque attacks. Ahead of their game against Manly in Christchurch today, the club announced that each shirt will have the words “They Are Us” on the back for this game and each home game for the rest of the 2019 season.
3. 2001-2002 Home
After a tumultuous period, on and off the field, at the end of the 90s the Warriors re-emerged, now fighting for all New Zealand, not just Auckland. With them, they brought this magnificent new strip, which they wore all the way to the grand final in 2002. Clearly aping the black of their more successful brothers in the 15-man code, this also integrated colours from the Auckland Warriors period, in a semi-traditional rugby league V. Was the main influence for both the 2013 and 2016 Heritage shirts.
4. 2018 Heritage
Once again harking back to the first season of the club, although unlike the other heritage strips, this one is referencing the original away strip (see number 10). Not only is this the best of the heritage strips, I think it better than the original. The colour bands are arranged in the same order as the 1995 strip, but it forgoes the curves for a shallow chevron. It is a lesson on how you can keep a predominantly white jersey looking interesting. When I tried to find one of these myself, they were already sold out, which is a sign that the design didn’t just appeal to pretentious keyboard Warriors like myself, but fans up and down the country.
5. 2013 Wellington
I don’t know what was in the water at Canterbury when they were designing the 2013 shirts, but it really was a great year. This jersey was released for the Warriors’ game against the Bulldogs at the Cake Tin (which they lost, BTW). It’s a nod to the Wellington league team the Orcas, with detailing that looks to the past. It’s also better than any jersey the Hurricanes have ever worn.
6. 2012-2014 Home
A very strong, simple shirt. Uncluttered, with the red and white chevrons on the front continuing to the shoulders. Again, it doesn’t hurt that the red and white fit nicely with the branding of the main sponsor.
7. 2015 Nines “Tangaroa”
The nines was introduced in 2014, and the jersey manufacturers quickly realised it was a great chance to make a new shirt for all the super fans. While there have been a number of absolute dogs that have been presented to unfortunate teams before they run out onto Eden Park, this is one of the best. Based on the pāua shell, with blues that reference both the host city and the club’s heritage, it is one of the only shirts that competently uses Māori designs.
8. 2016 Heritage
The second attempt to recreate the 2002 jersey, though this is more traditional than 2013’s kete. With strong lines and bold colours, this a faithful recreation of the strip worn by Kevin Campion, Stacey Jones, Ali Lauiti’iti et al. This strip may have suffered from being a bit too similar to the home strips of this era, especially 2012-2014. It’s a shame that the club didn’t just use this as the home strip for that season.
9. 2010 15th Anniversary
The second rehash of the original 1995 jersey. Very simple lines bring out the best of the striking colours. You’d hardly even notice the swoosh neck which characterised all the Canterbury shirts from this period. Up until the release of the 2019 revamped home strip, this was the best of the tributes to the debut strip.
10. 1995 Away
The 1995 home shirt, with the blue and white inverted. The club has had a number of white away strips over the years, but this is the only one that really says “Warriors”.
11. 2019 Away
The 2019 season sees the biggest refresh of the jersey range in quite some time. While returning the home colours of the club to blue, green and red, the club haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water. The black with red, which has been the predominant home colours for almost 20 years, has now become the away strip. In doing so, the template from the 2019 home strip has been replicated, except with a black body, and grey replacing the green on the curves from the shoulders. It’s a clear evolution on the last three home strip designs, as well as integrating grey, which has been the base colour for many away strips, especially in the 2000s.
12. 2003-2005 Home
On the one hand, it’s quite a plain shirt. Simple, black and grey. The only colour comes from the sponsors on the front and the arm. However, once you’ve seen what some of the designers tried to do with colour, you’ll be wishing for simple black and grey.
13. 2013 Heritage “Kete”
The first kit to look back to the 2002 grand final team, this is not a strict homage. The blue, white and red detailing around the neck is placed onto a textured grey body, woven like a flax kete.
14. 2013 Women in League
In 2012, the NRL introduced the Women in League round, where, to make up for the appalling record some league players have with women, they made them wear pink shirts. Because if there’s one thing we know about women, it’s that they LOVE the colour pink. You know what else they love? Flowers. This shirt manages to combine both. Aside from the tone-deaf semiotics, this is easily the best of the Warriors’ Women in League shirts. The body of the shirt has the subtle “kete” weaving pattern from the 2013 heritage jersey, and the green of the NRL badge really pops with the pink.
15. 2012 Heritage “Pounamu”
One of the first experiments with complex, patterned fabric that actually kind of works. The colour itself is nice, and while there is a lot of fine detail, it still looks decent whether you’re watching from the sideline or the top of the East Stand. In saying that, there’s a reason that very few sports teams play in green – it isn’t always the easiest colour to spot a teammate in. (While the Canberra Raiders play in green, it is a very nauseating shade of the colour that almost certainly does not appear anywhere in nature).
16. 2006-2008 Away
Another pretty simple grey strip with two black hoops – a variation that Puma was pretty fond of. Nothing spectacular, but the neutrality allows the colour in the sponsors’ logos to pop nicely.
17. 2015-2016 Home
The 2016 refresh turned the rugby league V of the previous jerseys into two ferns that cross into the centre. It’s a nice design flourish that doesn’t detract from the simplicity of the shirt.
18. 2007 Auckland Strip
Released in 2007 for a one-off game in which the Warriors commemorated the 1977 Auckland league team, which beat Australia, Great Britain and France in the space of 20 days at the old Carlaw Park ground. I’m always partial to a strong rugby league V, and this has got that, on top of a deep blue.
19. 2000 Away
The Warriors played away in red for the 2000 season. I don’t know why. The collar detailing looks like Puma had pioneered the page-turning animation on an iPad at least 10 years before Apple. On the strips with a deep V on the neck, I like to imagine that the Puma of the logo is trying to jump his way out of a chasm.
20. 2015-2016 Away
Busy up top and simple down below. The grey panelling is a nice change from the white of the two previous away strips, and harks back to the away strips from the Puma days.
21. 2003-2005 Away
Puma’s reign as jersey supplier for the club was defined by understated, two-colour designs. They almost never over-complicated things, something that can’t be said about their successor Canterbury. Both their best and worst designs were in the first couple of years as supplier, and the designs got simpler and simpler as the years went by. They introduced grey as the colour of the away strip, which was a good choice, as demonstrated here.
22. 10th Anniversary
The first shirt to look back to the club’s history, Puma’s one attempt at the iconic 95 shirt is pretty good, though the lines get a bit tight as they squeeze around the bottom of the collar.
23. 2018 Women in League
2018’s “Women In League” strip was notable in that it eschewed pink in favour of purple, another colour that isn’t exactly associated with the masc, hetero culture of rugby league. Aside from that, it has a stylised koru motif that references Gordon Walters – at last, modern art and professional sport have been brought together in a single commodity. It is also worth noting that the Vodafone logo is in black and white – I doubt that it would have been so high on this ranking if there was a bright red circle in the middle of the jersey, clashing with the purple.
As an aside, it’s worth comparing this to the strip that the Warriors women’s team wear. It is a variation on the 2018 heritage strip, with purple, grey and black, and apart from the jarring clash with the bright red sponsor, it works really well. If the club wanted to promote their women in league, they could do worse than running out in the kit that their sister team wears.
24. 2005 Alternate
I suspect that someone at the Puma factory in the mid-00s had too many black hoops and chose to get rid of them by releasing them on special edition Warriors’ jerseys.
25. 2003 Special
The chunkier lines of the 2003 edition drop it slightly below the very similar 2005 version.
26. 2012-2014 Away
A white away jersey with just enough colour in the detailing to keep it interesting. This is still interesting, right?
27. 2014 Women in League
Women! Flowers! Pink stuff! Swirls!
28. 2011 Heritage
As worn by John Key to the 2011 grand final, back before he tried to change the flag and erase this proud part of Warriors sartorial history. Works because it is actually pretty simple, a blue body with shite sleeves, and part of the union jack and the southern cross gracing the front of the jersey. When I think of this kit I immediately remember Feleti Mateo attempting an audacious offload, or Krisnan Inu scrambling across the line to cap the comeback against the Tigers in the last grand final run. Memories.
29. 2002 Mt Albert strip
Worn specially for a game at Carlaw Park against the Rabbitohs, these are a very rare and sought-after shirt. Helen Clark has one! But that doesn’t mean it’s good. It kind of doesn’t know whether it’s blue hoops on a yellow jersey, or a yellow V on a blue jersey.
30. 2014 Eden Park
The club released two very similar shirts in 2014, this one for the match at Eden Park in the regular season, and the following one for the inaugural Nines competition, also held at Eden Park. This one ranks slightly higher as it has slightly more blue.
31. 2014 Nines
The only major difference from the previous strip – apart from the Nines logo – is the white panelling at the sides, and the white piping and collar. Note that the club’s mascot Tiki appears to be trapped in the Matrix.
32. 2009 Heritage
Similar to the 2007 Auckland shirt by Puma, except less good. They’ve half committed to the chevron, and it doesn’t work. Plus, the dumb CCC neck swirl (more on that later). As with the previous two strips, always happy to see the club running out in blue and representing their Auckland origins.
33. 2017-2018 Home
Canterbury has been making the club’s kit for long enough that this is recognisably a Warriors shirt, but it doesn’t say much else. Bland and half-hearted, even the designs that run down the side don’t seem convinced that they should be there.
34. 2006-2008 Home
By the end of their relationship with the Warriors, it looked like Puma had really run out of ideas. While most of their shirts are pretty minimalist, this is taking it too far.
35. 2008 Heritage
To celebrate 100 years of the Australian Rugby League, all clubs had a heritage jersey in 2008. Puma chose to look back to the weird away strip they did just eight years before. Even though it’s not that different, it still manages to be much worse. The neck and shoulders are shapeless, and the double badges on the left are an unfortunate mess.
36. 2015 ‘Te Maumaharatanga’ (The Memorial) ANZAC jersey
The Warriors’ worst attempt at patriotism since the 2011 heritage jersey, and at least that one had an element of simplicity on its side. This one has everything: a New Zealand flag, an Australian flag, white crosses, Kiwis, all lovingly rendered in fake stained glass. However, it could have been worse – much, much worse.
UPDATE: I have moved this up a bit from the last rankings. It hasn’t got any better with age – if anything, it has gotten worse – but it’s a sleeper hit of bad design. They threw a lot of ideas at this shirt, and they don’t work at all, but here they all are, stuck to a shirt, forever more.
37. 2009-2011 Home
Canterbury took back the jersey-making reigns in 2009, a completely different company to the one that made the 1995 shirts. CCC were in a very curvy period at the time. There is the unnecessary swirl around the collar that doesn’t add anything. There are also the two white lines that cut up the main body of the shirt. When wearing the full strip, the team looked like pandas, or perhaps, given the way they played in 2011, more like orcas.
38. 2011 Eden Park
Never one to turn down the opportunity for a new jersey, the Warriors released the Eden Park jersey in 2011 to celebrate the fact that the Warriors were going to play a couple of games at the home of rugby. And because rugby, they made an all black jersey! But by the time you had added in all their sponsors and badges, they became a very messy black and white that only served to reinforce how well the ABs have done to keep the sponsorship on their shirts to a minimum for so long.
39. 2006 Awen Guttenbeil testimonial
A very special jersey for the Awen Guttenbeil testimonial in 2006, with a custom moko pattern. Canterbury remade a version of it in 2010, that is pretty much, but not exactly, the same. The grey away jerseys of the mid-00s work because they are nice and simple, something which this is not.
40. 2010 Heritage
CCC version of Puma strip above, with an even busier design.
41. 2014 Heritage
The third time the original jersey was rehashed. The body contains the names of all the players who have worn the Warriors shirt, but that’s surely not enough reason to buy another shirt.
42. 2016 Women in League
The design itself is good – a version of the club’s home kit from this era, with the red replaced with pink. Except… the red on the sponsor’s logo hasn’t been replaced. Red and pink might go together on Project Runway, but it doesn’t work here.
43. 2017 Heritage
The 2017 Heritage strip was another riff on the iconic 1995 home strip, this time with Pasifika images contained in the design. The colours are strong, and it is great to see the club acknowledge the important role that people from the Pacific Islands have played, both on the field and supporting the team. But I’m not sure we needed another version of the 1995 strip, just three years after the last one.
44. 2019 Heritage
2019’s heritage strip is an odd one; it’s not particularly interesting, but it also manages to pack a lot in. The design is a reference to the 1956 Auckland rugby league team, while also featuring the names of all the players who represented the in the club’s inaugural season, quite subtly on two of the lower white hoops.
45. 2009-2011 Away
Even though this was the shirt worn in the team’s most recent grand final appearance, that doesn’t mean it’s good. The weird black lines across the midriff serve no purpose apart from drawing attention to the girth of one’s beer belly.
46. 2019 Indigenous
I have not always been the biggest fan of the club’s attempts to integrate Māori patterns into the shirts, but this one is definitely better than average. By keeping the patterning to the top left and bottom right corners, it doesn’t feel too busy. My biggest complaint would be the shining marks on the blue piping – we know this is a shirt, not a well-polished kettle. You aren’t fooling anyone.
47. 2015 Women In League
While I’ve complained about the other Women In League shirts, at least they were trying. I’m not sure what this is meant to say. Women like fibre-optic communication?
48. 2015 Heritage “Te Whare Tu Toa”
I’d guess that it’s an attempt to recreate some of the magic of the 2012 Pounamu jersey, but lightning does not strike twice here. The front is too busy, with the traditional Māori tukutuku panel being graced by a warrior with a ball. The back was even worse, with a name board featuring the name of each and every Warrior to have played thus far. It was too much information. Plus, it was brown. Brown.
UPDATE: Despite dissing this kit last time round, I picked up a jersey and matching shorts, and have proudly worn them to a game. I still think it is ridiculous, but I appreciate just how over the top it is (also, it was hella cheap).
49. 1997 Home and Away
In 1997, the club jumped to the Super League. All the teams had jerseys with a similar design, but with different colours. The Warriors’ one integrated more white into the traditional blue strip, with green around the neck and a red collar.
The version of this kit that was available to fans stripped back almost all the sponsorship, with only the Super League logo and Nike Swoosh. It is a much more appealing kit than the match-worn version.
50. 1998 Home and Away
At the end of the Super League Wars, the Warriors came back into the NRL, but for some reason, they brought this awful jersey with them for the 98 season.
Though it is the same strip as the 1997 season, the additional logos on the 1998 version undermine the simplicity of the previous year’s effort, and thus I’ve ranked this one lower.
51. 1997 Super League Special
A mysterious and very hard-to-find jersey used for one game in the 97 Super League season against Canterbury, presumably to avoid a clash of uniforms. Blue – and not a particularly nice blue – with a red collar. Best forgotten.
52. 2019 Little General
The Warriors are definitely hitting the nostalgia button hard in 2019. Though this isn’t a heritage strip, it is another one-off, this time to honour Stacey Jones. It is an homage to the strip he wore in 1997, the season that the club defected to the Super League. Though I’ve not spoken highly of the strips from the Super League era and the two years immediately following it, this has prompted me to reconsider. This makes the 97 strip look elegant and balanced in comparison, with its block colours, and the use of red on the cuffs and collar. The blue CCC logos encroach onto the blue at the top of the shoulder, and the badges don’t sit cleanly on the chest. While Stacey Jones is a club legend, if I was looking for a shirt to pay tribute to him, I’d pump for either the 2002 strip worn when he scored one of the greatest tries in grand final history, or one of the heritage versions that pays homage to it.
53. 2017 Nines
I’ve never been the biggest fan of the sublimated imaged strips. Most of the time it seems to be designers saying “we can do this” rather than asking whether they should. At least the Warriors have never gone down the bizarre route of some Spanish football clubs, which have played games dressed like broccoli and ham. This strip, from the 2017 Nines, has a very busy aesthetic of fire and lava – a literal hot mess.
54. 2012 Women In League
This was the Warriors’ first Women In League shirt, and it’s their worst (to date). To raise the issue of domestic violence, the team ran around with a shirt that depicted people getting shot with a gun. But pink!
55. 1999 Home and Away
Instead of throwing away the awful jersey inherited from the Super League, they decided to try and work with it, and somehow made it even worse. More white, less blue. More curves, less that says “league”. This was the first year that Vodafone was a sponsor, in a rectangular panel that ruins the already terrible lines.
56. 2017-2018 Away
Before the big refresh this season, the kits had been getting increasingly less interesting. While the home kit could pull it off, with the strong use of black, the away kit just ended up looking bland. Bland and forgettable. The pattern across the chest looks like echoes of a time when there was a V on the shirt, and the design on the side is so subtle that it might have been printed on a machine that needed its toner replaced.
57. 2016 Nines “Spirit of the Warrior”
The Warriors delivered their best performance at this year’s Nines, as beaten finalists. Unfortunately, they did it in their worst Nines jersey. Just because you can print detailed drawings onto a shirt doesn’t mean you should. Just like the hastily recruited sponsor for the event, this was a real Downer. A sure sign of a strip’s unpopularity is the number of them in stock at the Canterbury store at Dressmart Hornby, and there were always racks of these looking for a home.
58. 2018 Indigenous
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On the plus side, I quite like the grey at the top, and the green and blues that start being introduced are nice… but I just can’t get behind the illustration of the warrior. I don’t think that some of the most ripped men in the country need to be running around with pictures of more ripped men on them. Maybe I’m wrong and it will become a cult item. Maybe it already is part of a cult and I just don’t know about it.
59. 2000 Home, 2001-2002 Away
The turn of the millennium was a time of chaos at the club, and I can only assume that internal communication wasn’t working as it should have been, as this is the only way that I can see how this monstrosity was ever approved. Why doesn’t the blue on the sleeves align with the blue on the body? Why are there two different types of clip art for turning over a page? Why does it look like part of it is out of focus? So many questions that I don’t want answers to; all I want is to never see this thing again.
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