AMAZINGLY, the stories on how two famous clubs - Port Adelaide in Australian football and Juventus in the world game - adopted black-and-white jumpers begins in the same way at virtually the same time ... and with a similar touch of perfect mystery.

As fact, both clubs tired of their red-based shirts - Port Adelaide with magenta; Juventus with pink - fading as the season wore on.

History records, Port Adelaide formally made the change from magenta and blue to black and white at the SA Football Association meeting at the Prince Alfred Hotel in Adelaide on Monday, April 28, 1902. A year later, Juventus dumped its pink and black (first worn in 1899 to stand out from the crowd ... a thought Port Adelaide picked up in 1902 when the SAFA was overwhelmed with blue jumpers).

The record books certainly tell that both clubs built their unrivalled success in their home football competitions in black-and-white (Port Adelaide with 33 of its 37 AFL-SANFL premierships in black and white; Juventus with all its 35 Italian top-flight titles in black and white after complete failure in pink).

And now for the mystery and myth.

At Juventus, the change to black-and-white is attributed to Englishman Tom Gordon Savage - better known as "John" Savage - ordering a new kit for the Italian club from his former home at Nottingham. One version of the story is the English manufacturer completely misread his instructions and sent Notts County's black-and-white stripes to Savage; the other is Savage simply went down the path of nostaglia by having his new team wear the colours of his old home club.

At the Juventus museum in Turin, the Italian club simply hails Savage saying: "Nel 1903 importo la maglia bianconero dal Notts County; He bought the black and white jersey over from Notts County in 1903."

At Port Adelaide, there is no definitive soul to praise for giving the club - and Australian football - a jumper that stirs the emotions for those who admire its heritage and importance to the club's community; and those who have come to "hate" the Port Adelaide Football Club and what its traditional jumper stands for.

In Port Adelaide's 150th anniversary season - and amid another jumper brawl with the Collingwood Football Club - it is worth dealing with fact and revisiting some myths on the black-and-white guernsey.

04:18 Mins
Published on

Game Film: Round 3 | PTV

A look inside our first game in the Gold Coast AFL hub.

Published on

HISTORY

Port Adelaide's annual meeting on Wednesday, March 26, 1902 at the Railways Hotel carried on the agenda the need to address the players' concerns with their fading magenta-and-blue jumpers.

With the club's early records lost in a fire, the newspapers of the day - "newspapers of record" - offer an independent account of the moment.

The Register reported: "A discussion took place on the question of the colours. It was mentioned that the magenta and blue jackets were very unsatisfactory to the players, and that it was impossible to properly dyed costumes. A proposal to submit to a committee for consideration was not entertained, and after a lengthy discussion it was decided to retain the old colours."

The Advertiser told the same story: "A discussion took place concerning the question of the club's colours. It was argued the present colour faded rapidly, and black-and-white was suggested as a substitute. A majority, however, decided for the retention of the magenta and blue." The newspaper story did not detail how the black-and-white colours were put forward or by whom.

The sentimental traditionalists who wanted Port Adelaide to resist change soon were to be surprised.

On April 28, a month after the debate had seemed cleared away with a commitment to stay in the premiership-winning combination of magenta and blue, Port Adelaide formally became black and white.

RECEPTION

In the following week - with the newspapers filling column inches with previews to the 1902 SA Football League season - the football critics turned into fashionistas.

True to a Port Adelaide way that has been the club's story for more than a century, the new jumper divided opinion. Some were impressed with Port Adelaide's new look declaring "the new costumes look exceedingly well"; one noted commentator was not so convinced. At The Register, "Goalpost" was standing alongside those who maintained the magenta jumper symbolised Port Adelaide's victory in the struggle for premiership supremacy after being bridesmaids in the early colours of blue-and-white and pink.

"Goalpost" wanted Port Adelaide to make its traditions in magenta writing: 

A section of the club objected to the innovation on sentimental grounds, but the majority overruled them, and the players will from the opening match appear in a natty costume.

I rather think I would have been on the side of those who desired to retain the magenta on sentimental grounds. The magenta banner has floated at the top after many a desperate battle. It has a distinctly Port association, and even if my costume was not so dainty as other teams' I think I would have stuck to the old colour.

(For those without a dictionary nearby for old English speak, "natty" means smart and fashionable; well designed, clever." It is a pity no-one at the time recorded just how the novel bars design came to be.)

Port Adelaide first wore the black-and-white bars in a SA Football League premiership match on May 3, 1902 at Alberton Oval - against North Adelaide. The game ended in a 28-point win for Port Adelaide, now known as the "black and whites" rather than the "magentas".

The Advertiser's match report on Monday, May 5 reported: "The Ports appeared in their new costume of black-and-white. It much improves the appearance of the team."

Almost 120 years later, this initial thought on how the Port Adelaide black-and-white jumper changes the look of a football team still applies.

South Australian State teams wore black-and-white stripes during intercolonial competition in the late 19th century, well before the establishment of the Collingwood football club across the border.

MYTH

As there is no record of what symbol was sought in the new Port Adelaide jumper in 1902, there is just speculation that creates myth.

Modern theory has the guernsey represents the pylons from the wharves/docks at Port Adelaide. Perhaps. But was this image so obvious when standing away from the Port River in 1902?

A new theory might focus on the SA State teams of the era. They wore black-and-white stripes in intercolonial football late in the 19th century, from 1881-1906 - and well before the Collingwood Football Club was formed in 1892.

Did someone at Port Adelaide, out of respect for the history of SA football on the intercolonial stage, redesign the State jumper by retaining the black-and-white stripes, but cutting them off with a white horizontal bar to establish a traditional solid black yoke?

Did black and white become the favoured combination at Alberton because there was no other option in an era of limited dyes to colour sporting uniforms? Red was off limits because of North Adelaide or out of concern for the dye fading; and blue was overused in the seven-team league by Norwood, South Adelaide, West Torrens and the new boys from Sturt who took up the two blues of Oxford and Cambridge universities. West Adelaide was in black and red.

BRADMAN'S CALL

Port Adelaide did not always wear the black-and-white bars jumper from 1902. Most memorable is how Fos Williams opened the "Golden Era" with the 1951 premiership won with Port Adelaide donning a jumper of black-and-white vertical stripes.

Port Adelaide stepped away from the bars from 1934 to 1951 (winning four premierships) to wear a variation of black-and-white stripes.

During the crowning moment of the Six-in-a-Row premiership run from 1954-1959, the world's most-famous cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman (a South Adelaide fan), made it known to club secretary "Big Bob" McLean that there was just one jumper for the Port Adelaide Football Club - the bars.

At the 1959 premiership dinner - where McLean hailed first-year captain-coach Geof Motley for claiming an Australian record with the sixth consecutive premiership - Bradman put his lasting mark on Port Adelaide football history.

Bradman had seen the club in four variations of black-and-white stripes after moving to South Australia from New South Wales in 1935 (a year after Port Adelaide moved away from the bars). His first sighting of the 1902-themed bars was during the Six-in-a-Row conquest - and he directed McLean to keep them as a lasting tribute to this unrivalled success. McLean, who never wore the bars in his 147-game league career at Port Adelaide from 1939-1948, needed no more debate on the issue.

PRISON BARS

Not everyone endorses the "prison bars" name for the Port Adelaide jumper - a theme that appears to have been thrust onto the guernsey by the club's rivals, in particular Norwood supporters wanting to cast a derogatory image.

The first reference to "prison bars" in the media is found in The Advertiser early in 1993. Football writer (and former Norwood junior footballer and South Australian Sheffield Shield cricketer) Alan Shiell in his match report from the Port Adelaide-Collingwood practice match at Football Park on February 10, 1993 wrote:

The pre-match mystery about which club would sacrifice its traditional black-and-white guernsey to avoid possible confusion was solved when the teams ran on to the ground.

Neither side changed.

Port Adelaide wore its prison-bars jumper (and black shorts), which provided enough of a contrast with Collingwood's wide, vertical stripes (and white shorts).

Port Adelaide's only concession was to wear its old black-and-white hooped socks instead of its new, plain black socks, as worn by Collingwood.

?Today, Shiell expresses surprise when he reads back these words - and assumes he simply picked the "prison bar" term from the pre-game chatter. It is not difficult to imagine in that setting at SANFL-controlled Football Park, particularly the Press box, there would be many wits seeking to link Port Adelaide to such a stereotype. More so when tensions were still high after the club's contentious bid to join the AFL in 1990 had taken Port Adelaide to the Supreme Court as the "accused".

TODAY

Port Adelaide has worn the bars just five times in the club's 532 premiership matches in AFL company since joining the national league in 1997. As a percentage, this accounts for 0.9% of Port Adelaide matches.

The Prison Bars first featured at AFL level in honour of Port Adelaide's undefeated Champion's of Australia 'Invicibles' against Carlton in 2003.

2003: For the first heritage round, Port Adelaide wore the 1914 "Invincibles" jumper against Carlton at Football Park.

2007: Heritage round was billed as a return to the 1970s and Port Adelaide opted - drawing objections from Collingwood - for its 1977 SANFL centenary premiership jumper. This is the only time Port Adelaide has worn the bars for an AFL game outside Football Park and Adelaide Oval - to play (and lose to) the Western Bulldogs at the Docklands in Melbourne in round 14.

Port Adelaide honoured its SANFL premiership winners with a special Prison Bar jumper worn during its last game at Football Park, again against Carlton.

2013: For the club's last AFL game at Football Park, Port Adelaide returned to the black-and-white bars - with the guernsey "engraved" with the names of SANFL premiership winners at West Lakes - against Carlton. 

Perhaps its most famous exposure to the AFL, the Prison Bar jumper was worn by Port Adelaide on route to blitzing Richmond in the 2014 Elimination Final.

2014: For the first AFL final at Adelaide Oval, Port Adelaide appealed to wear the bars rather than its white AFL away guernsey - after the league handed the lower-ranked Richmond rights to its home, predominantly black jumper.  

Wearing the Prison Bars in this year's Showdown at Adelaide Oval will hopefully be the catalyst for an annual tradition.

2020: To honour the club's 150th anniversary, Port Adelaide returned to the bars in the home Showdown XLVIII against Adelaide.

From these five matches, Port Adelaide has a 3-2 win-loss record.

There are three notable moments on Port Adelaide's "agreements" on black-and-white appearances in the AFL.

ON entry to the AFL in 1997: Inaugural AFL chief executive Brian Cunningham takes up this critical point in club history saying:  "We did not want to lose black and white, not when it had been our club colours for such a long time.

"Black and white had to be part of the mix.

"The AFL (accepting Collingwood's protest there could be just one team in black-and-white stripes) wanted us to come up with another colour not being used by any other club."

Port Adelaide added teal and the oft-forgotten silver to its uniform.

HERITAGE ROUNDS: When the AFL devised the 1970s theme for the 2007 heritage round, Port Adelaide had only one jumper it could wear to recognise its heritage of the 70s decade - the black-and-white bars. The AFL first rejected this option in fear of the backlash from Collingwood, particularly with the fixture taking Port Adelaide into the Melbourne market.

The breakthrough agreement from this episode was Collingwood accepting Port Adelaide could wear its historical jumpers - including the black-and-white guernsey - in heritage-round games in Adelaide, provided these did not involve Collingwood.

It became a meaningless agreement.

Heritage round in 2008 involved only Melbourne and Geelong. The AFL rebadged the round in honour of Tom Wills, to recognise the 150th anniversary of his part in setting up the Australian game and Melbourne Football Club in 1858.

Heritage rounds ended in 2009, making the Port Adelaide-Collingwood agreement completely redundant - but not without relevance for future debates.

Port Adelaide donned the 'Magentas' in 2004 during the now defunct AFL 'Heritage Round'.

Pot Adelaide wore the bars in two heritage rounds (the first in 2003 and last in 2007) and opted for magenta in 2004; and the original 1870s blue-and-white hoops in the heritage Showdown in 2005. It was denied the bars for the return to the 1980s theme adopted for the 2006 heritage round. Port Adelaide went to Launceston to play St Kilda in round 16, 2006 with a jumper that had no relevance to the club's 1980s heritage - a teal jumper with lightning images sprawled across black and silver triangles.

FOR the 150th anniversary in 2020: Before COVID-19 changed the world, Collingwood was prepared to endorse Port Adelaide wearing the black-and-white bars in BOTH Showdowns - provided the guernsey was then assigned to a museum. Port Adelaide accepted wearing the bars in its home Showdown (as it did on June 13 in Showdown XLVIII) and to revisit the debate on future use of the guernsey.

This debate is now real.

In Turin, Juventus has - despite the pink jersey having no success tied to its image - worn its historical/heritage strip on special occasions, mostly on the road, to acknowledge its past.

COMMENT

COLLINGWOOD president Eddie McGuire says: "The Port Adelaide Football Club should respect the history and tradition of the Collingwood Football Club."

Respect is a two-way street.

This column seeks to tell the history - by fact rather than fiction - of Port Adelaide's change to the black-and-white colours in 1902.

The bars play a significant part in the club's story and image, both on and off the field.

The importance of this traditional jumper is well noted by the response the Port Adelaide fans have declared by putting more than 25,000 signatures to the petition seeking the bars to become the club's uniform in AFL Showdowns. This is the match that appropriately pays respect to the history and traditions of the Port Adelaide Football Club, SA football and the derby that was built on Port Adelaide's decision to stand alone from its nine SANFL rivals in 1990 and beyond.

If 2020 has proven any point it is the need to remember the fans - and their wishes.

After 24 years of debating when and where Port Adelaide should pay respect to its history and traditions in black and white there is no greater answer than the Showdowns.

01:57 Mins
Published on

MG Moments: Sheeds on the Prison Bars | PTV

Australian football icon Kevin Sheedy on his admiration for Port Adelaide's traditional Prison Bar jumper.

Published on

Critical to this debate is respecting Collingwood as well. Does the Collingwood Football Club suffer from Port Adelaide twice a year in Adelaide wearing its black-and-white jumper that is so different to the Collingwood black-and-white stripes? No. Not at all. 

And there is the question of why does Collingwood get this special treatment in the black-and-white debate, particularly when McGuire throws into the debate the trademark question on the black and white colours? Did VFL foundation club Fitzroy get this protection in 1991 when Adelaide joined the AFL with the same colour combination of red, blue and yellow? Did Adelaide get the veto right in 2008 when Gold Coast listed red, gold and blue as its official colours?

There are four AFL clubs with black in their strip - Essendon, Port Adelaide, Richmond and St Kilda.

Eight have white - Carlton, Fremantle, Geelong, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Sydney and the Western Bulldogs.

Almost every club uses white as the basis of an away or clash jumper.

Does all this tumble if Collingwood has the AFL enforce a trademark debate on the use of black and white?

It is time to end the farce by paying respect to a famous jumper, the heritage of SA football and a grand new rivalry on the national stage. 

Meanwhile in Turin, Juventus - like Port Adelaide with respect for Collingwood's history - acknowledges it was not first in black and white ... but no-one, not even Notts County, demands the Old Lady redesign its stripes in pink and black. In the same way, McGuire's "solution" to have Port Adelaide keep the bars with a magenta-and-blue theme is simply disrespectful to the club's heritage. Even Bradman would bat this one to the boundary.