Four more Betfred Super League teams have their 2017 kits put under the microscope. Leeds have, controversially in some quarters, opted for THREE outfits, whilst Leigh’s return to the top flight sees the Centurions adopt a traditional approach. Similar to their playing rosta for this campaign, Salford and Raging Bull have done a solid job whilst St.Helens new away ensemble is one of the best kits we’ve EVER seen. Honestly, it really is that good!
Leeds Rhinos – ISC
Bar Super League’s first ever season back in 1996, last year was Leeds’ worst ever Summer rugby campaign. Critics thought the Headingly club would struggle to replace the departing trio of Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai, but to finish outside the top eight was almost embarrassing and the Rhinos will be looking for a much improved 2017.
Despite the poor season result wise, Leeds at least looked the part with ISC coming up trumps with two very pleasant strips indeed. This season that theme continues, with Leeds drawing on inspiration from the yesteryear with this seasons home release strikingly similar to their 2003 effort made by Asics. That particular year, Leeds lost to Bradford in the Challenge Cup Final and were denied a Grand Final place by a Brian Carney inspired Wigan.
Just like the aforementioned 2003 offering, there’s perhaps a little bit too much amber for our liking, but nevertheless, it’s a very decent effort and keeps up the status quo of wonderful home kits that ISC have provided for Leeds – the longest ongoing apparel deal in Super League currently.
The away kit of navy and silver is also very pleasing, but the problem, and it’s a big problem for us is that this is an exact replica of Hull’s home ensemble, just with an altered colour scheme. Template designs are blighting the round ball kit market at the moment sadly and up until now, rugby, at the highest level has escaped. Let’s just hope it was a blip and normal service will resume next year although we’re nor holding our breath.
Thankfully Leeds have saved their best until last as their third or heritage strip is an absolute gem. The need, or lack of need for a third kit has drawn harsh criticism from some quarters, but we’re all for a heritage shirt or heritage round like the NRL introduced a few years back. We know it’s a tad superfluous, but the stunning mix of white amber and blue will be a real hit with the South Standers.
Leigh Centurions – Kukri
Leigh’s glorious march to Super League after a virtually flawless Championship campaign in 2016 saw the club decked out, quite literally given their main sponsor, in two daring outfits which won more praise than was anticipated. The home especially was a nice variant to their traditional hooped appearance.
For Super League however, Leigh have gone back to a more time honoured appearance and all in all, the Centurions and their small supplier Kukri should be applauded for getting such a prestigious kit bang on the money. Granted there are a few too many sponsors for our liking, but you can’t blame the club for wanting to exploit the added commercial opportunities a jump in division brings, nor the organisations for wanting to be associated with a Super League club either.
The Centurions away offering also gets big thumbs up with the inclusion of gold as a sidekick to a predominately black strip a classy touch, almost commemorative in fact. As its Leigh’s first season back in Super League after an ill-fated sojourn with the big boys in 2004, this particular arrangement seems wholly appropriate and although it would take a monumental effort to avoid the dreaded ‘Million Pound Game’, the current incumbents of the LSV kit cupboard are anything but relegation material.
Salford Red Devils – Raging Bull
With Salford eager to avoid the final season shootout again, you almost feel like this campaign could be the year that sees the Red Devils and stability final shoehorn nicely into the same sentence. The air of uncertainty and unpredictability that has been the Good Doctors Salford Roadshow in recent years saw an eye-catching kit deal agreed with Under Armour in 2015. Unfortunately, just like everything else Salford did with grand fanfare, the arrangement went sour and was terminated after just one season.
For 2016, Raging Bull, the company owned by former England Rugby Union prop Phil Vickery was announced as Under Armour’s replacement. They exceeded all expectations and produced two brilliant kits for Salford and they have repeated the dose 12 months later.
As with Leigh’s outfits, Salford go heavy on the sponsor branding, but a chest band is a dreamy facet of kit design across all sports, one which is grossly underused too. Raging Bull have taken this wonderful decoration and given it a twist which is original and it works wonderfully well also. If we had to be picky, the yellow is not needed – or is it? – but that aside, it’s a dam fine rugby kit.
The away strip takes on the same template as the home and as with many black kits, the end product is overwhelmingly positive. The inclusion of yellow on the chest band perhaps knits the Red Devils two strips together which is a clever touch. Again though, the top half branding makes the kit seem a little cluttered, but take nothing from Raging Bull who have once again demonstrated that they are a seriously underrated player in the rugby kit world.
St.Helens – O’Neills
Saints have become synonymous with a white shirt and a red V and for the third year running, that’s exactly what O’Neills, have delivered. What’s thoroughly refreshing is that each one of O’Neills home endeavours have used the V as the kits main focal point, and each time have made it a little different so as to keep the Saints palette fresh.
We actually think that 2017 is O’Neills best effort yet and the way the main sponsor isn’t just slapped over the top of the V means that real thought has gone into how the kit looks from an aesthetic point of view in conjunction with the sponsor, rather than coming up with the design, then wondering how all the branding will fit in and around it.
If the home kit is wonderfully traditional, the away is like nothing we’ve ever seen before and you know what, it’s absolutely magnificent too. We would go as far to say that this is one of the best ever kits to grace the 22 years of Super League competition.
A sash is something that was seen in many 80’s kit designs for football, but we’re struggling to think of many, if any instances of it’s use in rugby of either code. But this just isn’t any old sash, it’s one that’s been shattered like a piece of broken glass that fades away as it runs down the main body. This affect is repeated on the sleeves too and rendered in gold and white on a blue base. We’re yet to find ultimate perfection within a kit design and probably won’t ever discover it either, but the away shirt for Saints in 2017 is very, very close.