Wests Tigers to re-design Anzac jersey amid furore over 'disrespectful' detail

The club has issued an apology over a controversial detail on the design, labelled 'embarrassing' and a 'disgrace' by fans.

John Bateman, pictured here wearing the Wests Tigers' commemorative jersey.
The Wests Tigers' commemorative jersey depicts American soldiers on the front, rather than Australians. Image: Wests Tigers

The Wests Tigers have issued an apology and announced they will re-design their commemorative jerseys for Anzac Day, after fans and commentators called out an 'embarrassing' detail in the design. The Tigers landed themselves in even more drama when the jerseys were unveiled on Monday, amid a disastrous start to the NRL season.

The Tigers will wear a special commemorative jersey for their clash with Manly in round 8, which will take place two days before Anzac Day. But as many pointed out on social media, the soldiers depicted on the front of the jersey were actual American, rather then Australian.

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The Tigers said the jersey is aimed at “paying tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their loyal service animals.” The front of the jersey depicts two soldiers in front of a helicopter in “a Middle Eastern landscape, reminding us of the incredible bravery and sacrifice of our troops”.

However the stock image was actually of American soldiers walking away from a USS Lassen helicopter - which is used by the American military. Discussing the furore on Wide World of Sports radio on Tuesday, Mark Levy said: “Dear oh dear oh dear. That is embarrassing."

The Wests Tigers' commemorative jersey, pictured here with American soldiers on the front.
The Wests Tigers' commemorative jersey. Image: Wests Tigers store

Paul Gallen said: “Someone’s in trouble there. Especially Anzac Day. We live in this beautiful country because of what they did for us, the sacrifices they made. And to stuff that up, that’s a big stuff up.”

Levy later tweeted: “In response to US military on their jersey, Wests Tigers tell me ‘the soldiers simply depict the modern day soldier serving in desert environment.’ If you expect fans to pay $160 for commemorative jersey, you need to do better than Google image search of ‘soldier in the desert’.”

After widespread backlash, the club announced on Wednesday that it will re-design the jersey, issuing an apology in the process. "As a club Wests Tigers is deeply sorry if the use of this image has in any way offended anyone," the Tigers said in a statement.

"This was never our intention, and we are taking steps to rectify this. We have taken on board feedback from our members and fans, and we will be redesigning our 2023 commemorative jersey, immediately. Wests Tigers deeply regret any offence the use of this stock image may have caused and remains completely committed to honouring and respecting all those servicemen and women who have, and who continue, to serve."

The Tigers earlier explained that the jersey was designed in conjunction with the Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney "who have sighted and approved all collateral relating to the release of this jersey." A statement from the club said: “The soldiers on the jersey simply depict the modern-day soldier serving in a desert environment.

“The image in question, which is a stock image, has been purchased under license by our official apparel partner. The final design was approved by NRL Licensing.

“The military camouflage pattern above the chevron on the jersey is an authentic replica of the Australian Army camouflage that has been digitalised and grey-scaled. Both the Australian and New Zealand flags are represented on the jersey’s shoulders, again honouring our Anzacs. Above all else, this jersey honours all Defence Force personnel who have served in recent conflicts in Middle East wars, who are so often underrepresented."

NRL fans left fuming over 'disrespectful' move

On NRL 360, Paul Kent defended the Tigers but said he was "disappointed" the jersey doesn't depict Australian soldiers. “They’re carrying an M240B machine gun, where the Australians have I think it’s an F89 and a MAG58," he said.

“They’ve got the Anzac flags, Australia and New Zealand flags, camouflage which is the Australian camouflage above the chevron on the jersey. They have rebranded it the ‘commemorative’ jersey rather than the Anzac jersey.

“For the people who are blowing up that they’ve made an oversight and put American soldiers rather than Australian soldiers, it’s not the case, they’ve been through the Holsworthy Army Barracks and got that endorsed. I will say though, I am disappointed, I think a lot of people are disappointed they couldn’t find Australian soldiers to put on there.

“But certainly they wanted to have this sort of evocative image to symbolise the war that’s going on, and what’s going on in Afghanistan, Iraq, for so many years.” Fans were left fuming on social media, with some labelling the move an 'absolute joke' and a 'disgrace', while others described it as 'disrespectful'.

The fresh furore comes after a tumultuous start to the season, with questions arising about coach Tim Sheens after the club fell into an 0-5 hole. CEO Justin Pascoe has also drawn unwanted headlines, while fullback Daine Laurie drew the ire of fans by 'liking' a video of a try scored against the Tigers by the Broncos.

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