Rugby League has garnered some of the most unique team mascots, emblems and logos in Australian sport, and this of course includes the Sydney Roosters.
From 1908-1966, Eastern Suburbs were affectionately known as the Tricolours referring to the Red, White and Blue striped jerseys the team ran out in – colours that are still proudly worn to this day.
While several clubs like Newtown and Glebe opted to wear crests on their jerseys, Easts wore plain jerseys that did not feature any logos.
So where did the Rooster come from exactly? Well, there are three reasons behind the Rooster Revolution...
The French Connection
The most popular - and official - story of how the Rooster became Easts' emblem also goes hand in hand with the Club's iconic jersey.
An official Club Statement in 1954 announced that the team would be moving on from the striped Tricolours jersey to a brand-new design, modelled on the same one that the French national team wore at the time:
This coming 1954 season will see the players in a new style of jersey, fashioned mainly on the French jersey, with a few embellishments, but still retaining the colours of red, white and navy blue. Knickers will be white in lieu of blue whilst the socks will be hooped on the same pattern as the arm of the jersey.
Club Legend Ferris Ashton and teammate Col Donohoe were the catalysts for the change after the pair toured France in 1952 with the Kangaroos. In 2007, Ashton recalled the decision to give the players a new look:
“Col and I had been in France with the Kangaroos in 1952 and had noted the French jumpers and how the colours were interwoven. With the old Easts Tricolour jumper it became very hard to distinguish the colours towards the end of the season after repeated washings – and especially so if it had been a year like 1950 when it rained for the whole season. So Col and I had the bright idea of suggesting the change of jumper with the major use of the navy blue, with the ‘V’ and the red and white. It was a case of moving with the times and other clubs had done it, and because Col and I were on the committee we got the change through. There was a mixed reaction – and especially so from the old traditional Easts ‘sun-risers’.”
But that still doesn’t answer as to why Easts became the Roosters...but there’s a simple reason for that.
The Club took further influence from the French by adopting the Rooster moniker emblazoned on their jerseys. The French team were referred to as ‘Les Chanticleers’ – roughly translating to ‘a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard’ – an appropriate mascot for a team playing Rugby League.
Rising With The Sun
With the Club's origins in the Eastern Suburbs, and with the sun rising in the east, coinciding with the Roosters' crow at dawn, having it as the Club mascot seems like an obvious choice.
Further evidence of this connection is seen with Ashton’s reference of the older Easts supporter base being known as ‘sun-risers', and until the 1970s The Rugby League News magazine often referred to Easts 'From Where The Sun Rises'.
‘Easts Chasing Birds’
In a news item tucked away in the Rugby League News, June 4, 1967, under the heading ‘EASTS CHASING BIRDS’ lies a third story that is not as well-known as the other two.
The story reads like this:
‘Easts have been taken under the wing of Ingham Enterprises through the interest shown in the side by well-known sportsmen Messrs Bob and Jack Ingham. The firm has given a trophy worth $100 plus $400 cash for the best Tricolour player of the season. In addition, there will be a weekly gift of a dozen roosters for the best players in the three grades.'
Although the Club had been known as the Roosters since the beginning of that season, this only popularised the term we know today, and while the jersey change had been made in 1954, the Rooster still wouldn't make its first appearance on the jersey until the late 1960s...
Vive la Révolution – Easts to Win (1967-1977)
After a winless season in 1966 - the lowest point in the Club’s esteemed and proud history - revolution was afoot in 1967.
On the 20th of December, 1966 at 6pm, it was decided that the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club would adopt the Rooster as its official emblem according to the Minutes of Board Meetings of Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club.
After general discussion re an emplem (sic) for the Club it was moved by Mr. C. Steel and seconded by Mr. L.Hedger that the Rooster, as worn by the French Rugby League Team be adopted by the Eastern Suburbs' Leagues' Club for its official emblem. This was Carried Unanimously.
Former Easts player Jack Gibson was appointed head coach, and the Club adopted their first logo; a Red, White and Blue coloured Rooster atop of a football, which read the now-famous phrase ‘Easts To Win’ to instigate a prosperous season after a dismal 1966. The Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club coincided with their re-opening in Bondi Junction by introducing the logo.
Gibson would go on to lead the Roosters to the finals for the first time in seven years, and in 1968 the men from Bondi ran out with the famous Rooster crest adorning the jersey, much to the fanfare of the Easts faithful, with a slight variation to the Leagues Club's version.
Although the Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club had adopted the Rooster, the rest of the Rugby League world spent some time adjusting to it, with the first instance in 'Rugby League News' magazine found in January 1969 on a small news item labelled "ROOSTERS" BEGIN TO CROW, which states:
Easts' new glamour will attract other players - indeed, already there have been transfers of up-and-coming players eager to try out with the Roosters.
Sponsorship and Refinement (1978-1994)
With Rugby League continuing to grow and expand in the 1970s, the Roosters would follow suit, revolutionise the game, and open new horizons for the code.
The Roosters created history by becoming the first Club in Australian sport to have a front of jersey sponsor in 1976, with City Ford emblazoned on what is now considered to be an iconic jersey of Rugby League.
In 1977, the NSWRL introduced a properties division, with every club's logo re-designed and trademarked by the following year. This time, the logo featured a Red coloured Rooster on a White background bound by a Blue shield with ‘EASTERN SUBURBS’ displayed on the top of the crest.
The popular logo was featured on the jersey for seventeen seasons between 1978-1994, and a simplified version solely featuring the Rooster is currently used as the Club’s secondary logo, shown primarily on merchandise items and in a commercial capacity.
Super League and Survival (1995-1999)
On the eve of the ARL Premiership’s kick-off in 1995, the board of directors decided to change the Club's name to ‘Sydney City Roosters’.
Now with 20 teams in the competition, including fellow Sydney teams, Brisbane, North Queensland and even Auckland, there was a view that the ‘Eastern Suburbs’ identity had become outdated.
However, the Roosters weren’t the only team to do this, as both Canterbury-Bankstown and Balmain also rebranded as ‘Sydney Bulldogs’ and ‘Sydney Tigers’ respectively – although both would revert soon after.
At the time, the Club believed that having ‘City’ in their name would stamp down an 'ownership' of Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD), which could garner new sponsor partnerships as the threat of Super League loomed.
While it was a shift in tradition, it was necessary as the game continued to grow according to Club powerbrokers – but it is important to note that the Club was and still is registered as Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club.
The Red, White and Blue jersey now featured the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background to emphasise the new ‘Sydney City’ title. In 1997, all five remaining Foundation Clubs (Balmain, Easts, Norths, Souths and Wests) had a ’90 Seasons’ logo, which featured an alternate version of their respective logos at the time.
New Millennium, New Look (2000-present)
With the advent of a unified competition after the Super League War in 1997, many clubs rebranded their emblems for the new millennium, including Easts, who had now become the ‘Sydney Roosters’.
The logo, which is also the longest-serving that is still used to this day, features a more refined and stylised look, with a more aggressive-looking Rooster.
Centenary Celebrations (2007-2008)
Celebrating the Club’s 100th season in the top grade, the Roosters adopted a new Centenary Logo, one that gained a popular following.
Taking small influences from each of its predecessors, the 2007 Centenary logo featured a Blue Rooster silhouette with a background resembling the Club’s famous home jersey and ‘100 YEARS’ as a standout element at the base. It is also the only logo to feature a gold trim around the outline of the design.
To coincide with the Australian Rugby League's Centenary, the Roosters also featured this logo on their jersey for the 2008 season.
Which Is Your Favourite?
For over half a century the proud Rooster has been the lasting symbol of the Club, and although a number of changes and refinements have been made over the years, you can guarantee we will always wear the famous Red, White and Blue and we will always be the Sydney Roosters.
More history on Roosters.com.au