GILBERTS FIRST SYNTHETIC MATCH BALL
THE BARBARIAN 1981 **LIMITED EDITION**
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of rugby and the Gilbert brand, the iconic first Gilbert Barbarian Match ball has been re-released as a Limited Edition.
This rare addition to the rugby lovers collection will come with its own wooden Gilbert ball stand.
For the history buffs here is the story of the Barbarian - Rugby's most iconic ball: Despite Gilbert’s reputation, many other sports companies were
keen to get involved in the evolving sport of rugby and competition
had intensified by the 1970s. A growing number of rugby ball
brands began to promote their balls internationally, as well as
many local brands of ball including the Wallaby International in
Australia and the Super Springbok in South Africa (which was
subsequently acquired by Gilbert). In 1970, Mitre had launched
a plastic laminated ball sourced from the Eastern Europe. These
soon became popular in Rugby league but top level rugby union
matches still had to be played with leather balls and for a long time
the RFU held out against the switch to synthetic balls. Then, as now,
top kickers in particular preferred the unique performance of the
Gilbert ball off the foot and felt that others did not kick as straight.
Gilbert were shocked to learn that the cost of these new imported
balls was less than the labour cost alone of producing balls in Rugby
and it became obvious that it would have to source laminated
synthetic balls from overseas.
However, technology improved and by 1980’s, these synthetic balls
had become very popular. As a result, Gilbert produced its own
version to meet the demand. Initially, the surface was found to be
too slippery, so various other coatings were tried, including “Sticky”
balls, which had excellent grip when dry but these soon became
clogged and slippery in muddy conditions.
Gilbert’s 1981 brochure featured the new synthetic Barbarian and
Warrior balls for the first time; which were lace-less, white and with
special non-slip handling characteristics for all-weather play.
They were now made of rubber-coated laminate and ideal for all club and school matches, particularly in wet and muddy conditions and where played under floodlights.