With the new Betfred Super League season well underway, the early season games have been a terrific advert for the 13 man code in Europe domestically. Throw in the World Club Series domination over our NRL counterparts and there are many reasons to feel confident that our much maligned competition could be on an upward trajectory.
Some things remain constant however as it could be Warrington’s year, refereeing seems inconsistent at best and Catalans Dragons would win the League Leaders Shield if points were awarded solely on kit design alone. And whilst on the subject of kits, we have some absolute belters and ridiculously shocking playing ensembles on show for 2017 and so, better late than never, we run the rule over every side’s strips.
Castleford Tigers – X-Blades
We’re really not sure about what to make of X-Blades endeavours for Cas. The positives are that the away colours being a reverse of the home means a real throwback to the glorious day’s of simplistic designs which flooded the late 80’s market.
Sadly, and it’s a big disappointment too, X-Blades seem to persist with a virtual retina scorching orange rather than Cas’ traditional amber hue. Why is something that only supplier and club can answer, but because of this, the last three home kits have seen little variety and the sooner time honoured Cas colours return to their palette the better.
The away kit of predominate black is the better of the two new releases although it’s far from perfect as if only the superfluous orange was replaced by white. Cas could set to become ‘classy’ again and will be pushing for the top four once more, although in terms of kit design, the club are very much mid-table for 2017.
Catalans Dragons – ISC
Last season, Catalan achieved virtual perfection with their kits, so how do they follow a set of flawless uniforms? With something that is even better, something which we felt was impossible as the Dragons 2016 efforts reached levels that are rarely seen within sporting apparel design.
The 2017 home kit is elegance personified as the fact all but the rather irritating Kingstone Press branding are rendered in red and white being a stand-out facet. Rugby shirts have become far too cluttered with sponsors and with many insisting on using their corporate colours, a messy haphazard final product ensues. Not Catalan, red and white or not at all must be their moto – other clubs take note.
Design wise, the home outfit is impressive as with many ISC kits for 2017, thin stripes feature prominently and whereas Hull FC have got things horribly wrong, things are the polar opposite in France as the stripes are used in a sophisticated way.
Whereas the principal strip is full of grace, the alternative is loud, brazen almost arrogant in fact and sometimes when a club go down this route an epic fail ensues. Not this time as the oversize dragon works wonderfully well for Catalan who, like normal, will promise much and deliver little on the field in 2017, but in the fashion stakes, they are head and shoulders above their peers.
Huddersfield Giants – O’Neills
A little bit like Paul Anderson and some of his squad in 2016, it seemed like the Giants kit supplier Kooga almost outstayed their welcome at the John Smith’s Stadium as their kit designs had nosedived dramatically after a halcyon period two or three years previous.
It was no surprise that Kooga lost their last remaining Super League contract with O’Neills adding the Giants to a growing 13 man code portfolio which has yielded positive results for both Widnes and St.Helens.
The first releases for Huddersfield are a mixed bag in all honesty. The home shirt is good, but just tries a little too hard as the sleeve stripes are just not needed, but thankfully main sponsor bond-it have ditched the ugly looking box around their branding. The sublimated player faces are odd as surely the reverse would have been a far better place, if they were needed at all.
The away kit is a real gem however as white always seems to yield positive results when used as the main colour for Huddersfield’s change outfit. The amber and gold insert on the neckline and sleeves is a wonderfully classy, but discreet addition, with the shadow sleeve stripes a nice touch too.
Hull FC – ISC
2016 was a breakthrough year for Hull FC. Wembley glory and the Challenge Cup nestling in the black and whites trophy cabinet for the first time since 2005, with Lee Radford’s side expected to be among the frontrunners this year too.
One area, the only area in fact which Hull has taken a backward step is within their kit design. Surely ISC haven’t exhausted all their options regarding black and white stripes that they had to resort to this? The club crest looks lost within the thin, fuzzy tv-like stripes and if this was the way the club and manufacturer wanted to go, the placing of sponsors and makers logo and club branding should have been given much more thought.
The dazzling away kit is a real marmite affair although at first glance, we weren’t impressed, but it’s actually not that bad and every club seems to try a dayglow colour once with FC no exception to that particular rule. The almost universal black branding, with the same shade used on the neck insert redeems ISC slightly, although the use of shadow stripes could and perhaps should have been seen on the home shirt instead.