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Evolution of the Rabbitohs Jersey

As one of Rugby League's most famous and historic clubs, it's only natural that the jersey of the South Sydney Rabbitohs would have an equally distinguished story.

The original jersey of 1908 was comprised of fourteen even stripes; seven being Cardinal Red and seven being Myrtle Green. The design was to highlight the change from rugby union to Rugby League, and also incorporated a four-button white collar while changing the stripes from two-thirds Myrtle and one-third Cardinal striping pattern.


Due to the financial cost of jerseys, many players kept theirs for multiple seasons, or used second-hand jerseys from retired players. From 1916 the uniformity of the jersey was much more consistent, as the traditional two-thirds Myrtle and one-third Cardinal jersey was worn by the entire side.

To this day, the Cardinal and Myrtle stripes remain as the essential part of what is regarded as the most unchanged Rugby League jersey in the history of the game.

The Cardinal Red and Myrtle Green origins are still debated to this day; the South Sydney rugby union side was nicknamed the Redfern Waratahs, which some sources suggest as the reason for the combination of Red and Green. Another popular theory is that the strong Irish population in the area led to the use of the colour Green and Catholic-based cardinal Red.

In 1945 and 1946 - due to a poor post-war economy - a new design was used, with the Club opting for a Green jersey with a Red V-neck. This was short-lived, however, as the design quickly returned to the traditional stripes in 1947.

One of the most distinct variations in the mid 20th century saw a black and white jersey worn in a 1948 trial against Newcastle Wests, used to avoid a colour clash with the 'Rosellas' who also adorned Red and Green. 

Season 1959 witnessed the launch of the famous rabbit logo that would make its way onto the famous Cardinal and Myrtle strip for the first time, which has been emblazoned on every jersey since. 

Keeping with tradition, the Myrtle Green was still twice the thickness of the Cardinal Red, except instead of a ten stripe pattern it was now an eight stripe pattern with a much more fashionable lace-up collar design. Often the lace would be lost during games, and so the jersey returned to a button up collar by 1967.

As players continued to find any advantage they could over their opposition, the collar would often be tucked in to avoid being grabbed, which has led to today's jersey design of the thin V-neck design. The first time the modern V-neck was incorporated onto the jersey was in 1977, as the advantages became a desired feature by clubs.

Players slowly began to experiment with various sleeve lengths as well, which is noticeable in the 1953 premiership team photo as South Sydney legend Clive Churchill had cut off his sleeves, which produced the short sleeve jersey.

More distinct changes were made by John Sattler, who would roll his sleeves up before a match, and it was obvious a revolution in jersey design had begun as the short sleeve was considered much more comfortable and functional by players.

Sattler also inadvertently produced one of the most famous jerseys ever to be worn by a South Sydney player. In the aftermath of the 1970 Grand Final, the logo on his jersey was ripped in half, creating a new image - a torn rabbit - which was incorporated into the Club's 2008 heritage jersey. 

In the late 1970s sponsorship made its mark in the world of Rugby League, and in 1977 the South Sydney Rabbitohs became the third premiership club to add a major sponsor to the front of the jersey, V.I.P.

The Club celebrated its 70th birthday in 1978, and under the tutelage of legendary coach Jack Gibson the famous Red and Green oval logo was born, which is still today the official corporate logo of the Club.

One of the biggest changes in the jersey occurred in 1980, with the inclusion of white stripes and a breakaway from the traditional striping pattern. The new-look jersey was nicknamed the 'Minties' jersey as it resembled the wrapper of the popular mint-flavoured lolly. This coincided with a change in major sponsor as well, with 100 Pipers adorning the front of the jersey, the design lasting five years until the return to the traditional stripes in 1985.

The Red V-neck was back and this time a change took place on the sleeve. A clear long vertical Red stripe going from the wrist to the neck kept this return to tradition new and exciting. Another famous major sponsor, this time Smiths Crisps, jumped on board in 1986 along with plenty of media attention, lasting until 1991.

To this day, the Cardinal and Myrtle stripes remain as the essential part of what is regarded as the most unchanged Rugby League jersey in the history of the game.

The jersey would hardly change until 1997, with a return of the white collar and a return to the horizontal stripes on the sleeves. This season also saw the dramatic improvement in jersey quality and materials as various manufacturers battled to produce the best jersey.

As the professionalism of sport revolutionised the Rugby League landscape, so too did the necessity for away jerseys, as most clubs struggled to hold a consistent identity on the field. This never posed an issue for the Rabbitohs though, as the Red and Green that has stood for over 110 years was as distinct and unique as ever.

Readmission into the competition in 2002 saw the Club's first ever away jersey, a white jersey with Red and Green striped chevron from the shoulders. Predominately white jerseys featuring Red and Green, as well as black jerseys were experimented with throughout the next few years, but none ever really satisfied the traditionalists who had grown up with the classic Red and Green stripes.

The 2006 away jersey was one of the most distinct alterations to the away strip, but this was short lived as in 2007 a return to tradition had South Sydney back playing in the Cardinal and Myrtle stripes. 

The implementation of the black rabbit on the away jersey in 2007 was a progressive move. It was the first time a logo had ever been used to highlight the difference between home and away jerseys, which also coincided with sponsorship variations for both strips. 

The inclusion of black and white side panels kept the two jerseys distinct, both of which are still implemented to this day. Since 2009, the black rabbit has been on the home jerseys while the white rabbit is worn away. 

In the last decade, there have been plenty of new additions to the Rabbitohs jersey collection, including heritage jerseys harking back to the traditional jerseys of the 20th century, as well as modern concepts such as ANZAC jerseys, Indigenous jerseys and alternate strips have added variety to the Club's identity.    

In 2016 the implementation of shoulder panels for the home and away jersey were introduced, and in 2020 a new, subtle addition will continue the evolution of Rugby League's most famous jersey.

With over 110 years of history, it is the aim and desire of everyone at the Club to ensure that the famous jersey design continues to be used and reflected by the club that is 'The Pride of the League.'


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